European elections: Ukip under repeated fire – but it's not putting off the voters, say the polls

Nigel Farage has had a torrid week, but he has reasons for optimism

Despite revelations over the questionable views of his candidates and officials, an on-air grilling about the employment of his German wife and accusations of a "racist" poster campaign, Nigel Farage last week remained on course for one of the greatest upsets in recent political history in next month's European elections.

The Ukip leader endured what was one of the toughest weeks of his political career and yet support for his party was sustained. Mr Farage could even come first in the elections in less than four weeks.

A series of Ukip posters that warned "26 million people are looking for work – and whose jobs are they after?" and "British workers are hit hard by unlimited cheap labour" were condemned by opponents but a YouGov poll showed that the majority of voters – 57 per cent – believe the ads were a "hard-hitting reflection of reality", and 59 per cent said they were not racist.

With the European poll Labour's to lose, Ed Miliband will launch his party's campaign this week when he will be forced to take on directly the challenge from Ukip. Mr Farage is targeting Labour voters by touring northern England. If Ukip comes first, Mr Miliband is certain to face questions over his campaign for Downing Street in a year's time.

On a visit to the West Midlands yesterday, Mr Farage insisted that the three main political parties were trying to "smear" his MEP candidates and that they were running scared.

However, there were fresh claims about one of Ukip's candidates when it emerged that a former Conservative council leader – who resigned after a scandal over expenses – is to stand for the party at the next general election.

David Parsons, who previously led Leicestershire County Council, denied any wrongdoing but agreed in February this year to pay back nearly £2,400 relating to 26 car journeys that a council report concluded were "not sufficiently connected with his role" and two others that were too short given the waiting time for the driver. Details of the journeys were not given.

Mr Parsons, who left the Conservative Party in 2012, is to stand for the North West Leicestershire seat in the election next year. He told the Leicester Mercury that he had "witnessed first-hand how in recent years the local Conservative Party has wilfully disregarded the interests of local people".

"At a time when so many of us are struggling to make ends meet, we are left to the whims and fancies of a Tory/Liberal coalition, both locally and nationally," he added. "I believe Ukip is now the only political party which truly represents the hopes and aspirations of the people in our constituency."

Mr Parsons said the seat was one of Ukip's top 25 targets and promised to focus on a "positive message" rather than "the negative stuff churned out by the other, old parties".

The sitting Conservative MP, Andrew Bridgen, said that when he heard who was standing for Ukip he "couldn't stop laughing". Neither Ukip nor Mr Parsons would respond to requests for comment yesterday.

In the European elections, the Olympic gold-medal-winning rower James Cracknell is standing as a Conservative candidate for the South-west. Tory insiders predict that, if he is not elected an MEP on 22 May, he will be put forward to fight for a winnable Westminster seat for the Tories.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mr Cracknell did not rule this out, but added: "There's a job to do in Brussels. I haven't gone the traditional route into politics. Whatever route I take, it's all going to be new to me. Will the frustration be too much or drive me mad? I genuinely don't know.

"All I know is that in the next five years we will see a massive change in Europe and I want to be there to make sure Britain and Europe get the best deal. We're better off being in Europe if it's done the right way and at the moment it's not."

Mr Cracknell questioned Mr Farage's commitment to his job, saying: "In spite of all his expense claims, Farage just does not turn up. Ukip may be getting the profile over here, but you've got to deliver on the things that make a difference, and Ukip won't be able to do that."

Meanwhile, an anti-nuclear campaigner has been barred from running in the European elections after a bureaucratic error caused him to miss an application deadline.

Richard Cottrell, who has fought against the development of a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, Somerset, had intended to stand alongside North Somerset councillor Geoff Coombs as the newly formed Campaign West Independent party.

The Electoral Commission wrote to the party stating that the closing date for applications was 23 April and did not inform them of changes published online that moved the deadline forward by a day. Mr Cottrell is now seeking a judicial review.

The former MEP for Bristol accused the commission of "lacking a duty of care to all the candidates in the election".

He said: "This year there has been huge confusion. They should have notified all parties of all or any changes in procedure and this was not the case."

The change of application deadline took place due to a miscalculation of the differing bank holidays held in the South-west and Gibraltar, which was ceded with the constituency in 2004.

Mr Cottrell said that the inclusion of Gibraltar in the South-west was the direct cause of his exclusion and that the island should be able to elect its own MP, as is routine in the Falklands and French overseas dependencies.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week