UKIP leader Nigel Farage says winning a North East seat would be a “symbolic moment” that would mark the start of a five-year political battle in the North.
The UKIP leader told press gathered at the event there has been a “phenomenal change” in the polls in the region since the Challengers’ Debate aired on the BBC.
Mr Farage also backed your North East Manifesto ahead of giving a speech at the Grand Hotel in Hartlepool where candidate Phillip Broughton hopes to win the seat of former Labour MP Peter Mandelson.
“I think it would be symbolic moment and it would mark a struggle over the course of the next five years over who takes control of the North of England,” he said.
Mr Farage added: “There are 10 days left to go. My experience of the North East in the past has principally been the South Shields by-election and then the year after that we came within a whisker of winning Heywood and Middleton.
“I think when UKIP has momentum, we can surprise everyone, even ourselves.”
He said UKIP could expect to come second in a number of North East constituencies but that Hartlepool remained its main target for May 7.
He said: “Success is to make a breakthrough in the North East but equally let’s see how many second (places) there are in the North East and let’s see how we do in the council elections.
“When you think that five years ago UKIP was minute, we have come a long way.”
He denied he was encouraging UKIP supporters to vote Conservative in seats where his party stood no chance of winning in order to maximise the chance of a referendum on membership of the European Union.
“The only wasted vote in the North East would be for a Conservative candidate because that might stop us beating Labour,” he said.
Here is where UKIP stands on your election demands, according to Nigel Farage:
1 More devolved spending power
“One of the biggest mistakes of the 1980s was to effectively emasculate local government, which meant that they couldn’t raise their own local business rates and spend their own money.
“I think devolution and making local government matter is important.”
2 Scrap the Bedroom Tax
“I have come face to face with people whose lives have been absolutely ruined by this. It really hit me on the campaign trail in a way which I think not many Westminster politicians have understood.”
3 Fairer deal on spending cuts
“We would cut foreign aid. We would cut the Barnett Formula. We would cut the HS2 railway. We would cut our contributions to the EU. So, yes.”
4 Protect the NHS
“The attempt to privatise the NHS was a Labour initiative in the 90s and early Noughties. All of us thought maybe Labour had got it right but they didn’t. It is better to have a well-run public NHS.”
5 Dual the A1
“I don’t live in the North East so this is a slightly unfair question. I do generally think that this idea that the car is public enemy number one was a bit of New Labour rhetoric that needs to go in the dustbin.”
6 Cut rates for small businesses
“We are the only party which has said cut them by 20% for properties with a rateable value of £50,000 and that would a £1bn boost for the high street.”