THERE was an air of optimism at the UKIP spring conference which was held in Scarborough on Friday and Saturday (March 4 and 5).
An estimated 400 delegate packed into the Spa Theatre in the wake of Thursday’s (March 5) surprise by-election result in Barnsley.
Party leader Nigel Farage said he was “delighted” with the result which, although they did not win, saw the party gain second place ahead of both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Speaking ahead of his key-note speech to the party faithful he said: “Burnley was our best ever by-election result. In the past in European elections we’ve performed remarkably but we’ve never came second in a parliamentary election.”
He added that voters were angry about several issues including prisoners being given a vote.
The party last held a conference in Scarborough in September 2002 and Mr Farage said he was pleased to return. “We love the place,” he said. “We have 400 delegates and for a spring conference that’s pretty good. We are very happy with that.
“The party of opposition of the last few years has been the Lib Dems. They are now in government and they have broken some big promises. We have beaten them in Burnley and our main objective must be to supplant them as the third party in British politics.”
He added that the party was planning to fight for seats in 1,000 local elections in May and this conference was a springboard for the forthcoming campaign. “We’ve got a busy few weeks coming up,” he said.
Micheal Heaver, the outgoing chairman of the Young Independence group, told delegates that they were the “anti-establishment party”. He said: “We are the alternative to all three main parties.”
William Dartmouth, a UKIP MEP for the south west, urged delegates to opt for the alternative vote (AV) option in a forthcoming referendum because smaller parties would be better represented in election results. He said: “AV allows voters to vote with their conscience. Supporting AV will make us a truly independent party.”