UK Politics

Local elections: UKIP's Nigel Farage predicts big vote boost

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Media captionUK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage: ''We will travel optimistically''

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has launched his party's local election manifesto, saying he expects a "big increase" in its vote.

But Mr Farage said he could not predict where UKIP might gain seats, or in which parts of the country.

UKIP is contesting about 30% of the seats - 800 candidates - up for election in England on 3 May.

Mr Farage accepted the party had struggled to make an impression on local government in the past.

He said: "Our imprint in local government is nowhere near big enough. We have to build a substantial base in local government."

A recent opinion poll put UKIP, which campaigns for Britain's exit from the EU, ahead of the Liberal Democrats nationally.

Mr Farage said support was growing across the country, but potential UKIP voters were not massing in specific areas, as they were for other smaller parties such as the Greens or Respect.

'Fully-fledged party'

He argued that would make it harder for UKIP to target particular councils, adding: "Our strength is our weakness."

Speaking at the party's manifesto launch in Westminster, Mr Farage said the party was attracting support from across the political spectrum, not just from disaffected former Conservative supporters as the media assumed.

He said UKIP had moved on from its early years when all it talked about was Europe.

It was now also concerned with how Britain should be governed "once we win back that independence that we absolutely believe we will succeed in".

He added: "We have evolved. We are far more than just a protest group. We are now a proper, fully-fledged political party."

The party is campaigning on a platform of cutting council tax and business rates, saying no to wind farms and HS2 high speed rail. cracking down on crime, building more grammar schools and controlling EU immigration.

Mr Farage also pledged to hand "power to the people" with a right to hold binding referendums on local issues.