UKIP grandee Neil Hamilton is backing Boston to be a ‘beacon’ for his party’s success in next year’s general and local elections.
The deputy chairman - and former Tory minister - has been tasked with building up the party’s regional presence ahead of 2015.
With Boston giving the highest proportion of votes to UKIP in the country during the European elections in May, it’s no surprise that the colourful character came to the town with wife Christine last week.
He feels the impact of immigration and disillusionment with the old parties is driving Bostonians to UKIP, and feels the town could be key to further success next year.
He said: “This part of England has been forgotten by the major parties in the past and obviously immigration is an issue.
“Boston has become the flashpoint for people’s reservations and fears.
“It’s a microcosm of all the problems created by uncontrolled mass immigration.”
But can the party seriously hope to overturn MP Mark Simmonds’ safe-looking 12,426 majority?
A buoyed Hamilton clearly fancies the party’s chances of toppling the junior foreign office minister. He said: “I am making no predictions but If I were him I would spend less time in Central Africa and more time in Boston - although far be it from me to give him advice.
“It doesn’t matter who the MP is here if he bears the label of the three main parties.
“Mark Simmonds could be the world’s biggest Eurosceptic but so long as he is a Tory he will achieve nothing.
“Only if we smash the system can we get real change.”
With a cheeky grin, he went on to say: “I know nothing about Mark Simmonds. I think that’s part of the problem. No doubt he’s perfectly worthy but there is no doubt that Boston can do better.”
Hamilton, who said he was delighted to finally see the town’s famous Stump in person, reckons Boston has a key place in the party’s affections.
He added: “I see Boston being the beacon for the whole of the UK to shine a light into the dark corners of British politics.
“Instead of being the forgotten backwater, Boston deserves to be first place. That’s what a UKIP MP would give it.
“Nigel Farage has been talking about an earthquake, in reality the earthquake will take place when we get our first MP. Boston can be that constituency.”
When he last spoke to The Standard, Hamilton said he hoped UKIP would take on the legacy of Mark Simmonds’ predecessor, Sir Richard Body.
He was, again, keen to stress his admiration for a man who served the town from 1966 to 2001, adding: “He was a libertarian and a very very interesting man. I think he was one of the most brilliant MPs. He was 100 per cent a man of principle.
“He was one of my heroes.”
He feels part of the reason so few people engage in politics today is the lack of characters like Sir Richard.
Hamilton told The Standard: We have got to re-democratise Britain. Tens of millions of people have no voice inside the Westminster political elite.
“What have David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg got in common with the average voter? They don’t have to worry about paying the bills. They don’t know what it is like to struggle on a low wage.
The issues that really excite them are not of any interest to the average person in Boston.”
But does he or Nigel Farage really know what it is like to struggle either?
“I know what it’s like to lose my job in very public circumstances. Christine and I both lost our jobs and incomes and were effectively unemployable.
“I do know what it is like to struggle to pay the bills.”
He says he came from a working class family with a ‘strong work ethic’ and never claimed benefits when he was unemployed.
He famously lost his seat in Parliament in 1997 when, amid the ‘Cash for Questions’ affair he was roundly beaten by Martin Bell.
“Let’s be honest, I have had tremendous highs as well as tremendous lows. I think I am a more well-rounded person because of that.
“If I did it again I wouldn’t like to go through the horrors of the late 90s but I do think all that unpleasantness there was a silver lining.”
Hamilton promised we will soon know who will stand in Boston.
He hopes to run somewhere himself although coyly stressed it is up to individual branches who they choose.
Leader Nigel Farage has already told The Standard he wishes to stand in the south east – and said he feels the public are ‘sick to death’ of people being parachuted into constituencies for which they have no ties.
The party also hopes to reveal a series of policies at its Doncaster conference in September.
While people understand UKIP’s views on immigration - he favours a points based system such as that in Australia - many are unsure of policies in other fields.
It is often said that UKIP would privatise the NHS given half a chance, but Hamilton flatly denies this.
While it is clear that Neil is not keen on the way the service is run, he feels this is a popular myth, adding: “We recognise that the political reality is that there is no appetite for further massive changes in the health service.”
He bemoaned the cost of NHS bureacracy and managers and said: “I personally believe it is impossible to manage an infrastructure that big. It was badly designed from the start but you can’t re-invent the wheel, we have to refocus attention onto the challenges.”
He and wife Christine went on to Skegness and then Grimsby to support Victoria Ayling’s election campaign, but Hamilton warned councillors that his sights are not just on Parliamentary seats, adding: “We took the decision some years ago that the secret of our future success would be built on local government.
“We have been stupendously successful in this area and I expect that to continue with the Boston Borough Council elections next year.”