Communities secretary Eric Pickles says European elections are most important in a generation

PUBLISHED: 15:28 23 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:28 23 April 2014

Eric Pickles

Eric Pickles

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The European elections next month are the most important in a generation, communities secretary Eric Pickles said as he launched the Conservatives East of England campaign today.

During a visit to St John’s Innovation Centre, Cambridge, he said it was the first chance for people to deliver a verdict on the way the eurozone crisis was managed.

He countered the threat of UKIP, which is hoping to make huge gains across the country, claiming that the anti-EU party could not deliver on anything it promised and did not stand up for Britain’s interests in Europe.

Mr Pickles said that following UKIP’s huge gains in last year’s local council elections there was now a “grudge match”.

He claimed the party was ready for a fight and the loss of seats in last year’s local elections, particularly in Norfolk where a surge in support for UKIP saw his party lose its majority, had “put a bit of fire in our bellies”.

He told a gathering of Conservatives: “Don’t be in any doubt, this is the most important Euro elections in a generation. This is the first chance people have had to go to the polls since the euro crisis. It’s the first chance to deliver a verdict on the way that crisis was managed.”

He added: “UKIP simply can’t deliver anything they promise. They don’t stand up for Britain’s interests and do not stand up for Britain in Europe.”

He said the way to take on the threat of UKIP – which has surged ahead in the polls – was to take them on, on the “basis of reality”.

“We are the only credible serious political party offering a referendum,” he added.

Tory MEP for the East Vicky Ford, who is first on the Conservatives list to win seats, said that she thought things were starting to come back for the Conservatives since last year’s local elections.

“I’m expecting to see a solid Conservative vote in May,” she added.

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