The Earl of Leicester at Holkham Hall today declared his support for UKIP, revealing he had also backed the party in the last two elections.
Party officials gathered on the Holkham estate for the announcement, which they claim gives them new momentum in the run-up to polling day on May 7.
Lord Leicester said he had become disillusioned with the Conservatives and claimed the current government were “disingenuous” in claiming to have halved the country’s deficit while the national debt had almost doubled.
He said he had voted for the party in both the Norfolk County Council elections in 2013 and last year’s European elections.
He cited the imposition of VAT on repairs to listed buildings as one of his reasons for joining the party and said he had been attracted to UKIP by what he called their “sensible and logical” policies in areas such as climate change, defence and immigration.
He also criticised the so-called “bedroom tax”, which he said UKIP would abolish, adding: “It is quite wrong, it’s monstrous in fact, that an elderly couple should be forced out of their house.”
Michael Baker, the party’s candidate for the North Norfolk constituency, said Lord Leicester’s decision would help to persuade the farming community to back UKIP.
He said: “They’re going to realise that if somebody as influential as Lord Leicester is prepared to throw his hand in with UKIP, there cannot be a lot wrong.”
He also claimed their canvassing suggested it was now a straight fight between him and Liberal Democrat care minister Norman Lamb for the seat.
Toby Coke, the party’s North West Norfolk candidate, who is also Lord Leicester’s cousin, said the party was taking votes from both Conservative and Labour.
He said: “We are probably the first party in British history that represents all walks of life.”
Lord Leicester indicated he would not be standing as a candidate himself, but may give financial assistance.