Nigel Farage won the hearts of many back in June 2006 when he so effectively punctured Blair's balloon as Teflon Tony ended his six month Presidency of the EU. I'll have to wait a week before treating myself to it again on YouTube but please go ahead. Over the past couple of years, Farage has done rather well; he gives good soundbite, has established a trademark and distinctive look and sound and is becoming well recognised by the general public.
The country realises I think that we need to renegotiate fundamentally our relationship with the EU. We don't want to sign up to Lisbon, and we don't want to be part of a federal Europe. At the same time, I think we recognise that we are European. European history is our history. European culture is our culture. We share two millennia of cultural cross-fertilisation; Roman roads, gothic arches, neo-classicism, the effects of the renaissance and the enlightenment, arts, science and technology, the whole bunch and bundle. We can't be anti-European because we are European. But we can be anti-EU federalist, and with feeling. Farage's keynote speech to the UKIP conference is wise enough to recognise this; he's absolutely right in that we must define positively a new relationship with the rest of Europe, based on freedom of trade and commerce, freedom of movement (with limits) and close multi-lateral diplomatic links. But without costing us £40bn a year, our fishing grounds or our sovereignty.
If Farage can build on this by 4th June 2009, UKIP has my vote for the European election. And I suspect I will not be alone. If Labour's disastrous recent run of by-elections has proved anything, it is that we have entered a new era of post-tribal politics. Anti-Lisbonism runs across the political spectrum, and if UKIP can manage to stand enough candidates across the country I suspect they will do very well.