Today has been ‘Nigel Farage Day’ in Margate. Although many of the party’s other prominent characters addressed its spring conference, it was the leader who entirely stole the day with a speech lapped up by the crowd. If there was ever any doubt that Ukip is built around the personality of Farage, today proved it.
I spoke two of Ukip’s other key figures to gauge their thoughts on the conference. Rochester & Strood MP Mark Reckless (watch above) said it had been an ‘absolutely fantastic day’ but admitted it was a more restrained affair than Ukip's other conferences:
‘Spring conferences are generally more restrained that the big autumn ones, even for Ukip…people are focused on the election and we had a great barnstorming speech as ever from Nigel Farage.’
So does Reckless think the party is entirely focused on Farage's fight in South Thanet?
‘Nigel Farage is the key Ukip person. There’s an action day tomorrow in Thanet and clearly Nigel Farage needs all that help. We’ve got a great poll out but there’s no basis for complacency.’
Party chairman Steve Crowther described the conference so far as ‘sensational’, ‘full of buzz' and said Farage's speech meant it 'ended wonderfully.’ From his view on the stage, did he think the crowd was on their best behaviour for the hoards of journalists present?
‘I hope everyone is on their best behaviour but I completely dispute the idea it was tepid…you can’t be jubilant for the whole day. Every speech was well received.’
And does Crowther think Farage is the most important priority for the party?
‘It is clearly important to us that Nigel wins in South Thanet but it certainly isn’t our only important task. We have a lot of people we want to get elected.’
So the kippers are pleased with how the day went. The second day of the conference will be less eventful — there is only half a day left and and Douglas Carswell is kicking off the day in the graveyard early morning slot. But before that, there is tonight’s gala dinner. The bars in the Margate Winter Gardens are full this evening as anticipation grows for the election campaign.