UKIP plots poll breakthrough at conference
After last yearâ€™s unprecedented success in European elections, which saw Labour beaten into third place, it isnâ€™t really a surprise that the United Independence Party faithful were in a buoyant mood at their spring conference.
Certainly the location was unlikely to be the cause — the Juryâ€™s Inn hotel in Milton Keynes is probably unlikely to excite many people – but among the 500-odd prospective candidates and activists there was a palpable belief their party could be about to make a breakthrough in parliamentary elections and win their first seat in Westminster.
Nigel Farage, the outspoken, colourful MEP and former leader, remains the partyâ€™s darling and cheerleader.
Like a well-known celebrity performing at a pantomime, he had his captivated audience booing the name of John Bercow (the parliamentary speaker whose Buckingham seat he is hoping to take in the election) and laughing heartily as he appealed for people â€śpreferably with clean criminal records and of sound mindâ€ť to put themselves forward as party candidates.
The jokes aside, there was no escaping the partyâ€™s â€śstraight talkingâ€ť slogan, be it emblazoned on the cover of partyâ€™s election manifesto to the oft-repeated mantra from the conference lectern.
Talking straight on issues that they say the main parties ignore – mainly EU membership and immigration – will be at the forefront of UKIPâ€™s strategy for success.
Plymouth, Staffordshire, and Bootle in Merseyside along with Farageâ€™s assault on Buckingham, are among the top targets and the party, while realistic that winning a seat will be extremely hard, remains hopeful.