Ukip takes aim at Brexit Party with Lowestoft visit from leader
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
Ukip leader Gerard Batten said the fishing industry meant Lowestoft was one of the areas which understood the impact of the European Union when he visited the town on Tuesday.
Mr Batten was joined by local party members, and East of England MEP Stuart Agnew, as the party looked to distinguish itself from Nigel Farage's Brexit Party.
Lowestoft has seen national tensions play out on a local stage, as June Mummery, formerly a strong Ukip presence in the town, defected to the Brexit Party to stand as one of their MEP candidates.
But while Mr Batten said he "wished she would have stayed" he had not been able to offer her an MEP candidacy for Ukip as it had been too late.
On the threat of the Brexit Party taking votes from Ukip Mr Batten said: "I think that the mainstream media are bigging up the Brexit Party because they want it to succeed and Ukip to fail."
While some drivers honked their horns in support of the party, who set up in Station Square, one Lowestoft resident took issue with Mr Batten.
Alex Owens challenged Mr Batten over comments made by MEP candidate Carl Benjamin, a vlogger who goes by the name Sargon of Akkad online.
Mr Benjamin is being investigated by police after repeatedly making comments about raping Labour MP Jess Phillips.
Mr Owens said: "I think it's wrong."
But Bertie Poole, who has represented the party at a district level, said support for the party locally was high.
And he said the Brexit Party was going to be finished after the European elections. He said: "We are not - although we are Ukip - just for Brexit. Farage's party, they've got no members, they've got no branches, no constitution. So what happens at the general election? And they've got to have policies on health, transport, defence. We've always had very strong manifestos."
Ukip deputy leader and MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire Mike Hookem added: "We've got a strong support base but I take exception that they call themselves a party."
Mr Agnew added: "This is different, this is the sixth campaign I've been involved in, there seems to be much more interest in it."