UK & World News

  • 30 April 2014, 11:55

Has Farage Bottled It And Missed His Chance?

So, Nigel has decided to say no to Newark. Did he bottle it?

Here was - unquestionably - a massive opportunity for UKIP. This is a party that calls itself the anti-establishment voice; by-elections are lightning rods for anti-politics sentiment.

Yes, it would have been a challenge - a daunting 26,000 vote Tory lead over UKIP in 2010 to topple.

But if anyone could have done it, it was Nigel, riding high on a wave of public anger at Westminster.

UKIP have reached a record 20 points in the polls in recent weeks - Mr Farage is Mr Popular. So much so that questions about cushy European allowances or how his British jobs for British workers chimes with his decision to hire his German wife as a secretary simply wash over him. Nothing sticks.

Mr Farage says he wants to concentrate on the European battle - through which he hopes to top the poll and cause an "earthquake" in British politics. He can't be tied to Newark during a national election, he insists.

And he thinks that being parachuted into a seat that he knows little about would be "opportunistic" and "cynical". That might be smart.

After all, he doesn't want to risk a key part of his appeal - that he is seen as an authentic politician.

So instead UKIP will fight hard in Newark using a candidate with "local/regional credentials", according to sources. They will try to replicate by-election successes in Wythenshawe and Eastleigh, where they jumped from fifth and fourth place respectively to second, embarrassing the Tories.

But in truth, Mr Farage is the man with the biggest chance of UKIP success because of his national profile. And the European elections could be good - rather than bad timing - channelling a tumbling momentum for UKIP into the race.

That could be weaker by next May's General Election after facing the full force of a well-funded Tory campaign.

If that were to happen, Mr Farage would look back with regret. Britain's first-past-the-post system makes it tough for small parties to get a foot into the Westminster door. This was a big chance for UKIP.