Nigel Farage at Margate rally
Ukip leader Nigel Farage speaking at a rally in MargateNA

For a man who had spent the past two days trying to backtrack from his perceived racist remarks about Romanians, Nigel Farage didn't look at all apologetic when he took to the stage at Margate's Winter Gardens.

Neither did the Ukip leader look "tired out", the explanation he has given for "getting it wrong" when suggesting people would be right to feel concerned if a group of Romanians moved next door.

In fact his diet of no sleep, combined with nicotine, adrenaline and alcohol, as he described it, clearly works for him. He was as energetic, jovial and passionate as ever.

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Even if he had felt particularly penitent, which he didn't, the 1300-strong audience of Ukip members and supporters, easily ten times larger than they could round up three years ago, weren't interested in apologies. They wanted more Nigel.

When Farage referred to his car-crash interview with the LBC's James O'Brien two days previously the name was greeted by spontaneous boos from the crowd. "He is a very nice chap, I'm sure," responded Farage with his characteristic grin.

And when he suggested people may indeed be worried if a large group of Romanian men move in next door, there was a muttering of agreement from the floor. Apparently, they all know that criminal, drug dealing, people trafficking Romanians are leaving their desperate homeland which has failed to drag itself into the modern, democratic world after the fall of Communism.

They know it, of course, because Farage keeps telling them. He has been to Romania, you know.

And jokes about it being reasonable to worry if 10 men from any country moved in next door didn't really answer the allegations of racism, even if the audience found it compelling.

Farage raqlly protesters
Anti-Ukip protesters outside Margate Winter GardensNA

But, to state the blindingly obvious, this was Farage preaching to the converted. And the converted looked very male and very grey. The fact that one young couple with a baby-in-arms attracted such media attention (they will be big in Japan) only served to show just how much of an exception they were.

What some of the foreign broadcasters may have missed, however, was the fact this couple were clearly well plugged in to the Ukip machine. The husband, who did all the talking, even declared he knew bringing along the baby would get plenty of TV coverage. It would be churlish to suggest they were a plant.

As for the protesters who usually appear at Farage rallies, they were cursed by the sunny and distinctly un-English weather which meant many people probably decided deep-frying themselves on Margate's famous beach was the better option.

Still, there was a respectable couple of dozen waiting to greet Farage, who they "jostled" and shouted at last time he came here. They were disappointed this time as the local constabulary insisted they picketed the front door, while Farage used the back entrance. Tricky.

The group were also joined by other more scary, shaven-headed or England-flag-wearing individuals who appeared to think Farage a softie when it comes to immigration and who delighted in taunting the Socialist Workers - who according to Farage's spin doctor Patrick O'Flynn, looked like they needed a good wash.

The phrases "I'm not a racist, but....." and even "I'm not political, but..." were used to little effect, as was the killer conclusion to every argument: "It stands to reason", usually deployed at the end of a rant which contained precious little in the way of reason.

Back inside, the faithful were being treated to a defiant "we are not racist bigots, my father fought in the war" speech from Ukip's most senior female candidate, Janice Atkinson, who recently called for the protesters to be arrested.

But it was the leader they were here to see and he had a message for all those critics calling him racist.

"We are a non-racist, non-sectarian party. We will not tolerate extremism in our party," he said.

And, as for those poor Romanians? Ukip's immigration controls would be so thorough: "that if a group of Romanian men came to live next door to you, you would not need to be concerned." Assuming they could get in in the first place.

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