Ukip leader Nigel Farage spells out his dream at Telford rally
[gallery] Ukip leader Nigel Farage held his biggest ever rally, attracting around 900 people to Telford International Centre.
He said the Shropshire event proved the pulling power of a party he intends to build into a real political force.
Mr Farage told his audience: "Our model should be the Liberal Democrats. Not in policy terms but on how they focused on areas where they are strong, focusing on district councillors and parish and city councils. They trebled the number of seats in Westminster that way. We need a volunteer army. We need people to stand up and put their heads above the parapet."
Mr Farage used the meeting to hit out at the "crackpot" plan for HS2 and he backed shale gas "fracking" as a way to reduce energy bills.
He also claimed credit for the House of Commons voting against military action in Syria. He praised Enoch Powell as "brilliant" but said the so-called Rivers of Blood speech on immigration in 1968 had "stifled" the debate.
Meanwhile, deputy leader Paul Nuttall, a member of the European Parliament for the North West, said the party was opposed to same sex marriage because it left the way open for churches and religious institutions to be forced to conduct them by the European Court of Human Rights. He said civil partnerships were "far enough".
Mr Farage is seen as Ukip's biggest asset and has won support from voters but the party is struggling to get anyone else on its front bench team to have as high a media profile. Last night's meeting at Telford International Centre was paid for by Brian and Jill Seymour of Seymour Manufacturing. The couple would not disclose how much but Mrs Seymour, a parish councillor standing for Ukip in the European elections next May, said it was the cost "of a car". The election is on the same day as hundreds of council seats in the West Midlands, and Ukip is hoping to improve on its successes in the county council elections earlier this year.
Mr Farage said: "Our model should be the Liberal Democrats. Not in policy terms but on how they focussed on areas where they are strong, focussing on district councillors and parish and city councils. They trebled the number of seats in Westminster that way. We need a volunteer army. We need people to stand up and put their heads above the parapet."
He said last week's vote by MPs not to intervene in Syria was the first time the House of Commons had "expressed the majority view of the country" and said Ukip had campaigned against it. "The House of Commons is in fear of the electorate and that is a good and happy state of affairs", he said.
He said he wanted to stop the "grand folly" of high speed rail with Ukip candidates standing in areas affected by it.
Mr Farage said people had stopped talking about immigration after the speech by "a former MP for Wolverhampton", a reference to Enoch Powell.
"Brilliant as he was", Mr Farage said, "It stifled debate on the issue. It's the issue no-one wants to talk about. This country has always been the most open and tolerant in the whole of Europe, if not the world, bar none. We gave homes to refugees of Germany, Russia, Uganda and after World War Two we felt we owed a debt to the Commonwealth. Immigration ran to 30,000 or 50,000 a year. Now we are told we should celebrate that last year's figures were better than the year before because 497,000 came."
But he said rules allowing people to come to Britain from all over Europe meant the country was discriminating against those from elsewhere in the world by not letting them in, even if they had skills the country needed.
Later, in a question and answer session, Mr Nuttall said Ukip opposed the coalition government's decision to legislate to allow gay people to get married. He said: "Civil partnerships were a great success. My objection to same sex marriage was because I believe that this will end up in Strasbourg in the European Court of Human Rights and that places of worship will be forced against their will to conduct same sex marriages."
Former Ludlow MP Christopher Gill, who defected from the Tories to Ukip, refuted suggestions that Britain would be "isolated" if it left the EU. "There are 196 recognised countries in the world", he said. Twenty-eight are in the EU. That's 168 other countries including Japan, China, India and Brazil that are isolated. Doesn't it make you wonder how, being so 'isolated', they manage to survive?"
Mrs Seymour, a parish councillor for Kynnersley told the meeting she was not an "isolationist". She said: "I love the continent, the European people.
"But none of us want an unacceptable dictatorship making ridiculous laws that stifle world trade."
Star comment: Challenges ahead for Mr Farage