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Why Nigel Farage has chosen Clacton and how likely is he to win Essex seat

Nigel Farage has launched his bid to become MP for Clacton at the general election.

On Monday, Farage U-turned on his previous suggestion he would not stand, saying the Conservatives had “lost the election already” and that he is “trying to establish a voice of opposition to what is going to be a Labour government that otherwise might be out of control.”

Launching his campaign on Tuesday he called on voters in the Essex seaside town to put him into Parliament as a “bloody nuisance” for a likely Labour government. But what are his chances of actually winning?

Has Farage come close to being an MP before?

The former Ukip leader has stood for the Commons seven times and lost each contest, even in 2015 when Ukip hit its high water mark of 12.6 per cent of the national vote.

The Reform UK leader lost most recently in South Thanet, Kent, in the 2015 general election, when he finished second behind the Tory candidate.

Farage has lost the vote for MP by significant margins in each five general elections and two by-elections he has run for.

In a 1994 by-election, he lost the vote to the LibDems, winning just 1.7 per cent of the vote, three years before losing the 1997 general election vote to the Conservatives in Salisbury, winning just 5.7 per cent of the vote.

In 2001, still running for Ukip, Farage lost the vote to Charles Wardle running as an independent candidate after he lost the Conservative whip.

In 2005 in South Thanet, he won just 5 per cent of the vote for Ukip, losing to Labour who won over 40 per cent of the vote.

In the 2006 Bromley and Chislehurst by-election, he lost the seat to the Conservatives, coming in third behind the Lib Dems. In the 2010 general election Farage lost the Buckingham seat to John Bercow.

The largest vote-share Mr Farage has ever gained was his 32.4 per cent in the 2015 South Thanet election, where Ukip came second to the Conservatives.

Mr Farage has never won a seat in the Commons, but he was successfully elected as an MEP for the South East of England in 1990 for Ukip, a title he retained until 2020.

Why has Farage chosen Clacton?

The Clacton constituency was previously held by Ukip after former Tory MP Douglas Carswell defected to the party and triggered a by-election, which he won in 2014. Mr Carswell defended the seat for Ukip in the 2015 general election.

Mr Farage, a veteran Eurosceptic, was at the forefront of the 2016 Brexit campaign, with both Reform and Ukip pushing for the UK’s exit from the EU.

Crucially, more than 70 per cent of voters in Clacton backed Brexit in the 2016 referendum – the fifth-highest figure in the UK.

In 2017, Conservative Giles Watling unseated Mr Carswell, who then ran as an independent candidate, with a majority of more than 15,000.

By 2019, with no Ukip or Brexit Party candidate standing, Mr Watling’s majority grew to 24,702, and he will campaign for the seat again in July for the Tories.

Mr Watling told the BBC: “I will be pleased to show Nigel around Clacton so he can see what it is really like, but I am not prepared to see the constituency of Clacton sacrificed on the altar of his vanity.”

Despite reform already selecting a candidate for Clacton, Mr Farage said he had known for “many months” that it was a “possibility” he could be replaced.

The former Ukip and Brexit Party leader said he had changed his mind after spending time on the campaign trail, adding he did not want to let his supporters down.

Does he have any chance of winning?

Prior to the dissolution of parliament, Reform had just one seat through the defection of Ashfield MP, Lee Anderson, from the Conservative Party in March.

Currently, Labour is set to win back Ashfield, with the Tories and Reform battling for second place in July, according to a MRP poll published this week.

The YouGov poll puts Reform in second place in Clacton on 27 per cent, with the Tories on 42 per cent. But crucially, the poll took place before Mr Frarage confirmed he would stand.

A recent JL Partners poll for The Sun suggested that Mr Farage’s return to the fold could inflate the Reform vote across the UK by 6 per cent.

Bookmakers William Hill have made Mr Farage the favourite to win the Clacton seat, with odds of 1/3 ahead of the Conservatives on 11/4 and Labour at 8/1.

Election 2024

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are back out on the campaign trail – and take part in the first leader’s head-to-head debate on ITV on Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, i‘s general election live blog is the go-to place for 2024 general election coverage.

The Tories have announced proposed changes to gender laws, but the focus has been on Nigel Farage following his shock move to stand as an MP and become leader of Reform UK. Not long after that announcement, the Tories revealed proposals for a new immigration cap.

On migration, Labour has said it will be prepared to process asylum seekers abroad. In London, their former leader Jeremy Corbyn, now standing as an independent candidate, has a fight on his hands to keep his supporters from switching to Starmer.

Got a question for our politics experts? Email [email protected] or tweet us @theipaper during the first live leaders’ debate and it could be answered by Jane Merrick or Hugo Gye.

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