UK Politics

Farage faces UKIP candidate selection vote in South Thanet

Nigel Farage Image copyright Reuters

UKIP members in the Kent constituency of South Thanet will decide later whether Nigel Farage will be their candidate in the 2015 general election.

The party leader is facing three other contenders in a hustings to decide who will contest the seat next May.

Mr Farage is expected to win the vote but he insists he is no "shoo-in".

The current Conservative MP Laura Sandys is standing down and the Tories have chosen a former UKIP leader Craig MacKinlay to fight the seat.

The Conservatives won the seat in 2010 with a majority of 7,617 but some opinion polls have suggested that UKIP is now ahead in the seaside constituency.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The constituency, in east Kent, includes the seaside town of Broadstairs

Mr Farage, who was born in Kent, has represented south-east England in the European Parliament since 1999 but has failed in all his previous attempts to get elected to Westminster.

He contested Thanet South, as the seat was then known, at the 2005 general election but came fourth with just 5% of the vote.

The constituency includes the coastal towns of Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Sandwich.

As well as Mr Farage, three other activists - lawyer Elizabeth Jones, barrister Piers Wauchope and Peter Bucklitsch, a fellow of the Institute of Financial Accountants - are seeking adoption as the UKIP candidate.

UKIP members will put questions to the quartet in hustings at St Lawrence College Theatre in Ramsgate before votes are cast. The result is expected about 1900 BST.

Local ties

After topping the polls in May's European elections, UKIP have said they are targeting about a dozen seats next year in their attempt to gain their first MP in Parliament.

Announcing his decision to seek selection in South Thanet earlier this month, Mr Farage said "rank means nothing" in UKIP and that he would face a tough task to be nominated.

Mr Farage, by far and away the party's most high-profile figure, has been mulling over where to stand for several months in the wake of UKIP's first ever national election victory.

He rejected calls to put his name forward for June's by-election in Newark, a contest in which UKIP ultimately came second behind the Conservatives, saying he had no ties to the local area.

Mr MacKinlay, the Conservative candidate, was a founding member of UKIP and briefly led the party in the 1990s before defecting in 2005.

The two remain friends although Mr MacKinlay has suggested that, should Mr Farage win the nomination, it could split the eurosceptic vote and hand the seat to Labour.

Labour, which has chosen local councillor Will Scobie as its candidate, held the seat between 1997 and 2010.

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