Election 2015

Beer and selfies on Farage campaign trail

Nigel Farage on the campaign trail in Thanet Image copyright PA
Image caption There were plenty of requests for selfies for Nigel Farage on his campaign visit

Nigel Farage has insisted he was talking about the "cold hard facts" of what he calls health tourism when, during Thursday's leaders' TV debate, he drew attention to the issue of foreigners who get treatment for HIV in NHS hospitals.

The UKIP leader showed no sign of rowing back from his comments as he was out campaigning in the Thanet South seat he hopes to win in this election.

It's the first time that Mr Farage has been seen knocking on doors in front of TV cameras since the campaign proper began at the start of the week.


He won some support for his views on foreigners using NHS hospitals when he appeared at a beer festival at Margate winter gardens.

One person who spoke to him told me that he liked UKIP because the leader said the things that other politicians wouldn't say.

As he toured tables at the event and shared in the booze there were numerous requests for selfies.

Thanet South candidates

Image copyright PA

Nigel Askew (Reality)

Ruth Bailey (Manston Airport Independent Party)

Ian Driver (Green Party)

Nigel Farage (UKIP)

Craig Mackinlay (Conservative)

Al Murray (Free United Kingdom Party)

Will Scobie (Labour)

Russ Timpson (Lib Dem)

Thanet South parliamentary constituency - Election 2015 - BBC News

There were some who strongly disagree with his comments about HIV sufferers who come here from abroad. One man told me that he thought Nigel Farage "did racism" well.

There are no signs though that UKIP will change its message come the next TV debate. In fact, framing the issue in that way combines two key issues that are central to the party's strategy - immigrants and the NHS.

Mr Farage also delivered what must be the understatement of his campaign so far when he told one beer drinker that it was "quite important" to UKIP's electoral fortunes that he is elected to Parliament on 7 May.

Last chance

Much of the focus is on ensuring the leader wins in Thanet South, at his sixth and almost certainly final attempt to become an MP.

He has said he will step down as party leader if he isn't elected, an event that would leave UKIP without its strongest asset.

There was also evidence earlier in the day of the dual attack UKIP is mounting in this election.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Former footballer Sol Campbell campaigned for Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay

I saw him knock on doors in the Cliftonville area of Margate and greet four people - all of them Labour voters. Or at least Labour up until now.

Of the four, three said they were supporting him. They were all pensioners who told me they wanted "a change" from the two parties who have dominated at Westminster for so long.

The fourth voter, younger than the others, asked the most questions and was the least convinced. The dad-of-three was standing in his front garden with a drill in hand when I went over to talk to him.

He told me he liked Mr Farage yet he wasn't going to vote for him. His quandary was that he saw little in Ed Miliband that made him think the Labour leader would make a strong prime minister.

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