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INSIDE TRACK: Euro election is merely a stepping stone for Farage

NIGEL Farage was looking supremely relaxed in his pound sterling socks.

The self-professed "bloke from the pub who went to Strasbourg" was launching Ukip's English local election campaign in a swish London hotel, with one party colleague gushing how Nige was the "greatest political speaker" on British TV, people loved him; so much so that it would be "football stadiums next".

I was bemused, as on this occasion the anti-EU party could only muster about 30 people for the big launch and these included members of Her Majesty's Press.

Of course, it didn't really matter. Unlike general elections, European elections are almost entirely conducted through the unblinking eye of the media. What matters is what is said on TV, radio, online or to the newspapers. And of course, the Ukip leader is everywhere.

While Mr Farage is hoping for a major breakthrough in the May 22 Europoll, not least in Scotland, he is really looking to this being a launch-pad to the 2015 General Election; because it is at Westminster where Ukip could really shake things up given what could happen in 2017.

"You know, I'm an angler," he told The Herald. "You'd be on the Spey thrashing away for hours and hours. One fish on the bank is a lot more than none. One seat in parliament is a lot more than none. If we get our first seat in parliament, if a by-election goes well, whether it's Newark or whatever, everything will change."

This, of course, is David Cameron's big fear. Having mocked Ukip and then ignored them, the Prime Minister is now desperately trying to woo back Tories flirting with the anti-EU party. On the stump this week,he urged voters to focus on the "politics of the answer, not the politics of anger". Fat chance.

The Euro poll is an opportunity for people to vent their anger and lodge a protest vote at the political Establishment. And they will take it.

Mr Cameron will have to ride the storm after May 22; he already has a reshuffle, or should that be relaunch, pencilled in for the end of the month ahead of the Queen's Speech and the final push towards 2015.

But what was interesting at the Inter-Continental, apart from Mr Farage's socks, was how the emphasis was not placed on taking votes from the Tories but on taking them from working-class Labour.

If the rise of Ukip is sustainable, it will feed into this growing sense of a Disunited Kingdom. A Yes vote in September will, of course, produce an unprecedented political earthquake, but what happens if there is a narrow No vote and six months later the General Election produces a Tory government but with no Scottish Conservative MP; Scotland with an English Secretary of State?

The sense of a Disunited Kingdom will be further underscored if Ukip do, as Angler Farage hopes, land a fish or three on the Westminster riverbank.

Having gone through the divisive debate on Scottish independence, this would come about as the nation is plunged into yet another conflict-ridden referendum campaign - on Britain's membership of Europe.

You have been warned; Mr Farage and his socks might be around for some time yet.

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