We’re coming for you, Ukip leader tells Remain MPs after far-right row
Ukip leader Gerard Batten has warned Remain-supporting MPs the party is “coming for you” as he insisted the eurosceptic party had to become “an electoral threat once again”.
He addressed the party conference after clashing with former leader Nigel Farage, who warned it faced “total and utter marginalisation” if it moves to the far-right extremes of politics.
As the conference kicked off in Birmingham, Mr Farage said he was “really upset” by the prospect of figures such as English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson being admitted into Ukip.
But Mr Batten hit back before taking to the stage, saying his predecessor should be “a little bit more careful about criticising me” when he had himself shared platforms with right-wing German party Alternative fur Deutschland.
In his speech, Mr Batten told delegates he might sometimes do things they did not agree with but asked them to “believe that I do that because I sincerely believe that it is right for our country and right for our people”.
He was applauded when he said the UK should not be asking Brussels “how to leave, we should be telling them how it is going to work”.
He then turned his fire on Remain-supporting MPs, especially those in constituencies that voted to leave the EU in 2016.
He said: “In the next general election Ukip intends to run in every constituency.
“But we will target some seats. I’m not going to tell you which seats today, but we are going to hit Remainers hard.
“Remainers, we know where your constituencies are and we are coming for you.”
The Ukip leader had earlier confirmed that he would approve of party membership for Mr Robinson, and said he stood by his descriptions of Islam as a “death cult” which sanctioned the use of sex slaves.
Mr Batten defended his appearance at a recent demonstration by the Democratic Football Lads Alliance, saying “it was not an anti-Muslim rally, it was a rally for justice for women and children victims of sexual abuse”.
Following the rally, Mr Farage said Mr Batten should be careful “what company he keeps”, and on Thursday the former Ukip leader told the Press Association Ukip was “in danger now, unless it changes direction very, very quickly, of total and utter marginalisation”.
But Mr Batten told Sky News on Friday: “Nigel is friends with Donald Trump, who a lot of people like to call names. Nigel has gone to speak on platforms with Alternative fur Deutschland, who a lot of people don’t like and call names.
“He is entitled to do that, because they are democratic parties, and I am entitled to speak at rallies organised by people who believe in democracy. I think maybe he should be a little bit more careful about criticising me, because he has done similar things.”
Mr Robinson would not be admitted to Ukip “in the near future” because it would require changes to the party’s rules, said Mr Batten.
But he added: “That’s something I would personally approve of, but it’s a matter for the party, it’s their decision, not mine… I don’t happen to think that Tommy Robinson is far-right.”
Mr Batten denied taking Ukip to the far right: “For the last 25 years, myself and everyone else in Ukip has worked to restore our country’s former status as an independent democratic nation that is governed by our politicians, elected by us, sackable by us, in accordance with our traditional laws and customs and constitution.
“If that makes you far right, I think whoever thinks that has got a very strange idea about what constitutes far right.”
Mr Batten had said he wants to use the two-day conference in Birmingham to present the party as a true populist alternative.
He unveiled an interim manifesto including plans for an “NHS health card” entitling British citizens to free medical treatment. Non-Britons would require private medical insurance unless a post-Brexit UK had done a reciprocal deal with their government.
Other pledges include turning the UK Border Force into a “Migration Control Department” with a remit to exclude “extremist” Muslims and a five-year ban on property purchases by foreign nationals in designated areas.
Ukip’s electoral fortunes have waned since the vote in favour of Brexit at the EU referendum in June 2016.
After Mr Farage stepped down as leader following a second term in September 2016, Diane James, Paul Nuttall and Henry Bolton have all led the party for short periods before quitting for various reasons.
At the general election a year later, the party secured 1.8% of the vote, down from 12.6% at the 2015 general election, and it failed to win a single seat at Westminster.