Tough target for UKIP optimists

IT'S always a pleasure to drop in on the happy bunch of activists in the Chelmsford offices of the UK Independence Party, even though we do not quite see eye to eye on Britain's relationship with, and continuing membership of, the European Union.

IT'S always a pleasure to drop in on the happy bunch of activists in the Chelmsford offices of the UK Independence Party, even though we do not quite see eye to eye on Britain's relationship with, and continuing membership of, the European Union.

UKIP pulled off a major coup when Jeffrey Titford won a seat here in the East of England for the European Parliament in 1999. Re-election looms in a little over 12 months and it's going to be tougher this time than last because the number of seats being contested in the closed list system of proportional representation is to be reduced from eight to seven.

As the elections will coincide with the London mayoral elections and some English council contests, the turnout will be higher than last time. This poses a threat to UKIP, as will any resurgence in Tory Party support.

Anyway, the UKIP crew is optimistic that not only will Jeffrey Titford win but also the number two on the list Tom Wise will also be on his way to Brussels and Strasbourg.


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Tom, who comes from Linslade in Bedfordshire, scene of the Great Train Robbery, is always unfailingly kind, courteous and helpful whenever I need information. He'll be a vigorous candidate, but for him to succeed UKIP will need to poll at least 30% of the accrued regional vote, and certainly far more than the federalist Liberal Democrats – a tall order to say the least.

NOTHING epitomises the sorry state of our railways than yet another wretched journey I was forced to endure last Thursday, returning from staying the night in London following the celebratory dinner to mark the 200th anniversary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

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People travelling at 12.30pm, paying a premium for a service labelled InterCity, rightly expect to be able to buy something hot and perhaps a cold drink. Wrong. The microwave was bust and the fridge kaput. "But you can have a tasty sandwich," said the steward hopefully.

When we finally got to Colchester, the train failed to move. It was more than 15 minutes after the advertised departure time that the first announcement was made as to why – but the volume on the loudspeaker was so low, that whatever the explanation, it was unintelligible.

So we arrived in Ipswich more than 30 minutes, the reason being some problem with the overhead power supply, which was beyond the control of the train operator Anglia.

But Anglia can be faulted for providing rolling stock not up to standard. My heart went out to the groups of elderly travellers who doggedly sat in their reserved seats in a carriage devoid of any light or heat, when they should have been escorted up the train to the acres of empty seating at which all the services were working.

Colleagues in the office know that when I go by train, it's usually a farce. Yet another claim for compensation has been lodged – the sooner our main line gets the decent rolling stock it deserves, the better, no matter which operator is awarded the new franchise.

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