Pint, pub and politics - Nigel Farage on Ukip plans
Fresh from an appearance at Cheltenham Literature Festival, Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, sat down with the Echo's political reporter Jack Maidment for an exclusive interview to discuss his party's image problem, the 2015 general election and why he is "uncomfortable" with the England cricket team.
"We are the horse that is behind but we are coming up on the rails," Nigel Farage tells me, pint of ale in hand, as we sit across from each other in the pub.
"But every punter likes to see an outsider. We are the outsider in British politics in every way."
For an outsider Mr Farage's party has been making plenty of noise of late and with polls suggesting his party is above the Liberal Democrats in the public's affections you wonder how long Ukip can keep playing the same card.
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The party has been making waves in recent months, winning council seats and challenging in by-elections, and it is those performances, like winning three seats in the Forest of Dean earlier this year, that Mr Farage points to as evidence that Ukip should be taken seriously.
"The remarkable thing is we are surprising people in election after election," he says. "I am not pretending Cheltenham is easy ground for us. It isn't easy ground for us. But that doesn't mean that we can't build a serious Ukip presence in this town, we can't win council seats in this town and we can't mount a challenge, because we can."
Despite its recent surge in popularity Ukip does still suffer from an image problem, perhaps evidenced by the fact that if you Google "Ukip" the party describes itself as "non-racist" in its website blurb. I asked Mr Farage what that says about his party.
"The reason we do that and say that is because there are so many people out there who wish us harm. It is unfortunate that we should have to. But if you ask me the question 'should we play safe on this issue or ignore it and hope it goes away?' – better to play safe on the issue."
Ukip has built its entire image on leaving the EU so operating in a world where Ukip gets its wish and Britain divorces its continental neighbours, what happens to Ukip?
"I have no idea," Mr Farage says simply. "I suspect that given the way Ukip is reshaping itself as a party that doesn't campaign just on Europe but campaigns on what we should do after Europe that we may find ourselves as the only UK party that has made a plan for what happens post EU."
Speaking at the Literature Festival, Mr Farage laid out Ukip's immigration policy in stark terms so I cannot resist asking him if he agrees with Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal and England footballer, who came out last week and said that only English people should play for England.
He says he "completely understands" what Wilshere said but he sees both sides of the argument having seen the England cricketer Chris Jordan "agonise" over choosing his nationality.
However: "I have to say I feel uncomfortable, as the cricket nut that I am, that almost half the side were born in South Africa, so I have reservations.
"What Wilshere has highlighted is this whole question of who we are is becoming more important."