Nigel Farage has returned to the seaside town where Ukip had its first MP elected five years ago, promising at a rally in Clacton-on-Sea that his new Brexit party will use the momentum of European elections to oust a “remain parliament”.
Railing against a “political class” who he said had betrayed the people of Britain, Farage claimed to more than a thousand supporters on Clacton pier that what was at stake was not just Brexit, but whether or not Britain was a democratic country.
“Can you imagine in an African country if an election was overturned? There would be uproar and they would be calling for the UN to be sent in … and yet it’s happening in our own country,” said Farage, who was introduced as “the godfather, the ‘guvnor’ of Brexit”.
On his latest visit to the Essex town, which has neighbourhoods with some of the highest levels of deprivation in Britain, Farage described it as the most patriotic and Eurosceptic place in the country.
“So what would Brexit do for Clacton? It would make us proud of who we are again and you can’t put a price on that,” he said.
Back in 2014, Farage had tucked into a McDonald’s McFlurry as he and a beaming Douglas Carswell strolled through the streets of the town after the latter had become the first Tory MP to defect to Ukip, then a rising force in British politics.
It was a relationship that was to sour, however, as splits within the party came bubbling to the surface even before the men joined different leave campaigns during the Brexit referendum.
Douglas Carswell with Nigel Farage after winning a byelection for Ukip in Clacton in 2014. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
These days, the Westminster constituency of Clacton has turned from Ukip purple back to Tory blue, with the former actor Giles Watling representing it in parliament.
“Here you are, one of the biggest leave towns in the country and yet you are represented by a remainer. Doesn’t that sum up everything that is wrong in the country today?” said Farage at the rally, indicating that Clacton would be a key target seat in any future general election.
Whether its considerable leave vote breaks in any number during the European elections either for Farage’s Brexit party or for Ukip – now led by Gerard Batten who has forged explicit links to far-right activists such as Tommy Robinson – remains to be seen, however.
But the party also has its eyes on Labour’s heartlands in the north of England and Wales.
Farage told the Guardian: “Back in the period 2013-14 and 2015 every body completely misunderstood the Ukip vote. They assumed it was gong to hurt the Tories and not Labour and actually in the 2015 election we hurt Ed Miliband a lot more and Cameron got a majority because of the Ukip vote.”
“I believe those sorts of dynamics could be very similar with the Brexit party.”
The leader of the Brexit party was mobbed by waiting media after arriving on an open-top doubledecker bus before the rally.
Rebecca Evans, a Californian bearing a blue and white Brexit placard, said she had come from the US to dedicate her life to the cause of leaving the EU and was hoping to be taken on as a worker for the party. “I’ve given up my entire life to come here because I don’t think there is anything more important right now for western democracy,” she said.
Michael and Janet Smith, former Ukip and Conservative voters, had driven down from Ipswich after learning of the rally on Facebook. “The tickets to come along were free but we would have happily paid for them,” said Michael.
They believed Farage’s party would win out over Ukip in the battle for Brexit supporters’ votes. “Ukip have been taken up with … how can I say this? … some very strange bedfellows. This new party I think is a bit more liberal.”