Nigel Farage has been caught on camera admitting he wants to replace the NHS with a US-style private insurance health system - in direct contrast to recent views expressed by Ukip.
In footage that has only just come to light, the Eurosceptic party leader was filmed stating that the NHS should be run by private companies and organised under an insurance-based system.
In an awkward turn for Ukip the views aired are noticeably different from those Farage has argued in past months - when he has insisted that he and his party are against privatising the health service and are willing to fight to preserve it.
A policy leaflet distributed in Rochester and Strood ahead of next Thursday’s crucial by-election said: “Ukip will ensure the NHS is free at the point of delivery and time of need for all UK residents. We will stop further use of PFI [private finance initiatives] in the NHS and encourage local authorities to buy out their PFI contracts early where this is affordable.”
But the video of the Ukip leader, which has only recently emerged from his 2012 Common Sense tour, saw him telling Ukippers that the market could deliver better value for money on health.
In the video obtained by The Guardian, Farage is heard saying: “I think we’re going to have to think about healthcare very, very differently. I think we are going to have to move to an insurance-based system of healthcare.
“Frankly, I would feel more comfortable that my money would return value if I was able to do that through the marketplace of an insurance company than just us trustingly giving £100 billion a year to central government and expecting them to organise the healthcare service for us. We’ve doubled expenditure on the NHS in 15 years — and we haven’t got frankly double the return.”
Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow health secretary, accused Farage of plotting to privatise the NHS.
“His views on the NHS are out of step with 99 per cent of the public," he told The Guardian. "It is now plain for all to see that a vote for Ukip is a vote for the privatisation of the NHS.”
"Farage can drink as many pints as he likes, but he’ll never be able to distance himself from these views that would go down like a lead balloon in pubs and clubs across the land."
A Ukip spokesman told The Times newspaper that its policy had "developed" since the video was filmed.
“Ukip believes our healthcare must remain free at the point of access,” he said. “Previous governments have enabled huge chunks of the NHS to be privatised by the back door and it simply has not worked.”
Ukip's claims come as Farage hinted he would be willing to "do a deal" with Labour if the terms were right.
In an interview with the New Statesman, Farage declared: "I'd do a deal with the Devil if he got me what I wanted," when asked if he would enter into a coalition with Labour.
According to a survey this week by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft, Ukip is heading for a comfortable victory in the Rochester and Strood by-election with a 12% advantage over the Tories.
Farage also suggested that if Mark Reckless, whose defection from the Conservatives to Ukip triggered the by-election, won, "other Conservative MPs might join us".
He claimed there are also Labour MPs considering a move, but they are holding back through "fear of the consequences".
In his Conservative Party conference speech, the Prime Minister argued that a vote for Ukip is really a vote for Labour.
David Cameron told his party that "you could go to bed with Nigel Farage, and wake up with Ed Miliband".
Asked if he would rule out any coalition, Farage said: "Of course not. There is no left and right any more. Left and right's irrelevant."
He acknowledged that the prospect of any 'rainbow coalition' "sounds extremely unlikely", adding: "I can't see Ukip willfully going into formal coalition with anybody."
But asked about confidence motions, Farage remained open minded, responding: "I'd be very comfortable supporting anybody that gave me an opportunity to get my country back."
During the discussion, Farage also spelt out his party's determination to erode Labour's traditional heartlands in the north and Wales, saying he was "coming after" Labour voters.
He said: "Everybody thought that people's tribal allegiance to Labour was as strong, if not stronger, than the tribal allegiance to the Conservative Party. What we're actually finding is, they don't even recognise the tribe."
He added: "We are now the only party that can challenge Labour in the north. The Lib Dems have gone. I think we can come second in every seat in the north of England.
"The question is: how many can we win? We're targeting our resources. We're going to target Heywood and Middleton pretty heavily. And Rotherham. And we're doing very, very well in Doncaster."
It's probably worth mentioning Labour leader Ed Miliband holds the seat of Doncaster North.Suggest a correction