UKIP activists, protesters and other residents attended the opening of the party’s new Bournemouth headquarters today.
Some 80 people gathered at the junction of Christchurch Road and Morley Road in Pokesdown to watch the ribbon cutting by the party’s deputy chairman Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine.
Despite vocal protests from some onlookers – accusing Ukip of being anti-gay and racist – Mr Hamilton said the launch had been a success.
“We are aiming to win as many seats as possible next year and in Bournemouth we have great prospects for growth,” he said.
“David Cameron’s party doesn’t represent the views of the average Conservative voter in Bournemouth.”
Mrs Hamilton, who was born and raised in the New Forest, said: “There are racists and homophobes in every party, I don’t condone it but it is a fact of life.
“I think Ukip has come through that torrent of accusations, proved by more and more people joining us.
“If the British people stand for anything it is liberty.”
Around 40 party supporters and activists mingled in the office, and some passing drivers tooted their horns in support.
At one point two men entered the shop with a sign offering ‘free hugs’, with one man taking up the offer while All You Need Is Love by the Beatles played from a nearby property.
One Boscombe resident – former Occupy activist Mandy – was among those who heckled the gathered Ukip supporters. She said the office was an “abomination”.
“They support hydraulic fracturing, they are anti-gay and racist, what more do I need to say,” she told the Daily Echo.
“It is nice to see so many people here as I wasn't sure how many would turn up, it is a very diverse area and this is not appropriate.”
Another resident who came to watch the opening was retired nurse Mary Bain, who said: “I don’t like Ukip but I thought I had better come and see what is going on.
“This is a very multi-cultural area and is very harmonious.
“I think they have brought up some issues which need to be tackled, but in a sensitive and inclusive way.”
Police officers monitored and filmed the event but most left after only a few minutes.
Ukip’s Bournemouth East candidate David Hughes was on holiday and unable to attend, but local activist Keith Barnes, who helped found the Bournemouth East branch in 1999, said it was “not an easy area” to campaign in.
“It has been a struggle over many years building up to the last election, but we are on a roll now,” he said.
“We have quite a bit of support in this area, particularly towards Hengistbury Head. We will try our best next year.”
For legal reasons, comments on this story have now been closed. We will review this on Sunday.