Ukip leader Nigel Farage says his party should take the credit for forcing election rivals to take seriously the future of Manston.
The fate of the airport has taken centre stage in the election battle for South Thanet with Ukip holding a rally at Margate’s Winter Gardens yesterday to demonstrate its support to re-open it.
The rally, attended by about 300 people, came just days after the Conservative transport minister John Hayes visited to declare that government consultants had cleared the way for compulsory purchase order for the airport.
Ukip party members at rally in Margate
Mr Farage said the only reason the other parties were now making commitments on Manston was because of the pressure Ukip was putting on them.
He denied there was a political ‘arms race’ and there was a danger of the parties were raising unrealistic expectations.
“It [Manston] is exactly like the EU referendum. If Ukip wasn’t a threat, Cameron wouldn’t promise it. If Ukip wasn’t a threat on Thanet council, the Conservatives wouldn’t even be talking about it.
“At government and at the county council, they had no interest in it. Suddenly they do. I think we are going to do really well on the council elections and the issue is on the map.”
Ukip leader Nigel Farage addresses party rally in Margate
However, he cautioned: “I am not saying to people that within two years it will be a massive thriving success but what we are saying is that we will create the right conditions to give it an opportunity.”
Asked if he felt that voters were already fed-up with the election campaign, he said: “I honestly think there are so many pledges being made, that no-one believes anything.”
Did that include Ukip? “Well, I hope no…because my style is rather different. You saw me in the leaders’ debate saying things that may have been contentious but it was me being true and saying this is what I believe in.”
Ukip party members
He also rejected the suggestion he was finding the election campaign more challenging than he had expected, with polls indicating he is in a three-way fight in which the gap between the parties is wafer thin.
“Look, I have been campaigning for three years virtually non-stop so the fact there is 26 days left is rather cheering,” he said.
As to his own prospects, he said he did not know what the outcome would be.
“The Ukip campaign has got buzz, it has got momentum and I think that the Ukip vote is growing.”