"THERE'S more to life than elections" UKIP's jovial frontman Nigel Farage joked with a roomful of reporters when he stopped off in the Black Country to boost to the campaigning efforts of borough candidates.

The purple party leader called in at the Office of Bill Etheridge in Sedgley on Tuesday ahead of a press conference about defence spending at Himley Hall and a public talk at The Copthorne Hotel in Brierley Hill as election fever well and truly hit Dudley.

Quick to defend the party's popularity slump in national polls in recent months - he told journalists: "Everybody has peaks and troughs - share prices have peaks and troughs. Over the last week we've seen evidence of UKIP starting to rise again."

But he said the task of furthering the party's achievements in the forthcoming General Election was not the most difficult he could be faced with. He added: "I've been through far tougher things in my life than this. There's more to life than elections and things that worry me more than elections."

And he's not too worried about the party's prospects in Dudley North where Bill Etheridge, an MEP for the West Midlands and councillor on Dudley Council, is battling Labour incumbent Ian Austin.

Mr Farage told the News: "We've got a very strong local candidate who is extremely well-known; that's pretty important historically. I know Labour are well dug in but I think Bill's a strong challenger. I'm backing Bill."

He also said the party, which won seven seats on Dudley Council in the last local election in 2014, had built "an impressive" set up in the surrounding constituencies.

And when quizzed on his views about recent allegations that Dudley North's former Conservative candidate Afzal Amin had been plotting with the EDL to win votes he said he thought it was "just about the most extraordinary thing we've seen in this general election" and added: "I'm not sure fermenting race riots is ever a very good solution."

On plans for a new state-of-the-art mosque in Dudley - he said perhaps something "smaller and more proportionate" might be more suitable but he added: "People need places of religious worship. I'm not going to advocate that you should ban people from worshipping their religion."

The charismatic party leader went on to describe the West Midlands as the "powerhouse of the UK" and said: "We need a government that creates conditions where people can go out and create wealth."

He also touched briefly on immigration, during his chat at UKIP's Black Country battle HQ in High Holborn, describing it as "a major issue" for people across the country and he added: "I still don’t think the three established political parties realise the extent to which people put two and two together. Why are our living standards worse than they were five to ten years ago?"

And he said his controversial comments about immigrants receiving free HIV treatment on the NHS, made on the latest TV leaders' debate, related to "people who jet in as genuine health tourists".

Dudley South UKIP candidate Paul Brothwood said Mr Farage's visit had provided a "morale boost" for supporters in the borough and he added: "I'm really pleased Nigel has come to Dudley North and Dudley South.

"If you look at the current polls we're doing exceptionally well; UKIP is as high as 36 per cent in Dudley South, according to YouGov; and Bill is neck and neck with Labour in Dudley."