Ukip’s Leader Nigel Farage has announced he will not contest the Eastleigh Buy-election ending months of speculation that he might re-contest the seat he first fought for in 1994 with the following press release:
I stood in Eastleigh back in 1994, famously beating Screaming Lord Sutch by 169 votes. It was UKIP’s first electoral fight, and the idea of standing again has its romance.
But today Ukip is no longer a small group of idealists. We are becoming a serious player in British politics. As leader I am responsible for what is in the party’s best interests.
In May Ukip will be fighting its greatest yet campaign in the English County Council elections. I will be leading from the front and travelling around the country to bring our message of local democracy and accountability, and to demonstrate why we are the real alternative vote.
I also lead a Group in the European Parliament united in the belief that Brussels has too much power.
Right now we are living in a time when the relationship of the European Union to its member states is changing dramatically. We must seize the opportunity to redefine this relationship before it’s too late.
Ukip continues to grow, and as it does, so the calibre of its candidates improves. We already have a dozen excellent people who have put their names forward to stand as the UKIP candidate in Eastleigh.
Whoever is chosen will have my full support, and the support of everyone in the party. We will fight this by-election as hard as we can, and expect to turn what people predict to be a two-way fight into a serious political battle
The news will doubtless come as relief to conservatives who are worried that Farage, a popular public figure with a high media profile, could split the conservative vote to a fatal extent.
They will be happier knowing they face a local candidate.