UKIP’s Farage Faces Battle To Win Kent Seat
“It’s 10% Nige”, “oh that’s much too strong for me” suggests Nigel Farage as he decides what pint to drink next.
We are in Margate, with an all too familiar scene, the UKIP leader, pint of British Bulldog in hand, canvassing voters.
Campaigning in the constituency he hopes to win, South Thanet, Mr Farage unsurprisingly turned up at a beer festival in the seaside resort.
And it is certainly the environment he feels most at ease in.
But he may be slightly uneasy about his prospects of winning here.
The most recent poll for Survation has him 11 points in the lead, but his first week has been dogged by accusations that he simply is not here enough, that he is not engaged in local issues.
It was an attack he countered by telling Sky News that it is a difficult balancing act.
Mr Farage said: “Clearly any party leader can’t spend as much time in one constituency as someone standing without office.
“But what I’ve got here is 56 men and women standing as candidates for district council.
“(A) big local activist base here, and between us we’re doing the job.”
And the UKIP leader, who failed to win South Thanet in 2005, is standing against seven other candidates.
They include the comedian Al Murray, who as the pub landlord also would not look out of place next to dozens of barriers of real ales which have lined the back wall of Margate’s Winter Gardens music hall.
Mr Murray is likely to make little electoral impact, but has certainly added more colour to an already high profile campaign.
He has promised to block up the Channel Tunnel, revalue the pound upwards and make South Thanet the new capital of the UK.
Both the Conservatives and Labour think they have a good chance of winning.
Craig Mackinlay, a former deputy leader of UKIP, is representing the Tories and campaigning hard on saving Manston airport.
He was joined this week in his fight by a Cabinet minister and former footballer Sol Campbell.
Meanwhile, Labour has appealed to Liberal Democrat and Conservative supporters to vote tactically to stop Mr Farage from winning.
Labour’s Will Scobie, who polls suggest is the strongest challenger, said he was “fed up of people from outside our area coming here, running us down and trying to use us for their own political ends”.
And the Lib Dem candidate Russ Timpson, who opposes fracking in the area, has also proposed that the council acts to stop the development of housing at Manston to help safeguard the airport.
So with a famous comedian, possible tactical voting and a national campaign to run, Mr Farage does have a battle to win Thanet South.
But it is one he must win; he has said he would step down as UKIP leader if he failed.
And UKIP without Mr Farage – well that could be last orders for the party.
From Sky News . 04.04.15. Report by Darren McCaffrey