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Ukip's 2015 candidate list is rich in Peters and Davids while fewer than 10 per cent are female
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Indy Politics

Ukip may be on the verge of another big by-election victory, in Rochester and Strood this week, but its role in the battle for gender equality is less impressive, new figures reveal today.

A list of Ukip's candidates for the general election show there are as many men called David or Peter standing for Nigel Farage's party as there are women. Only 26 out of 275 candidates who have been selected to fight in May 2015 are women. Similarly, there are 26 Ukip candidates called Dave or David (15) or Peter (11). Some 14 candidates are called Steve or Stephen, the list reveals. There are nine Johns or Jonathans, nine Pauls and five Nigels – Farage included.

Ukip's critics will say that the absence of women on their list matters because Mr Farage's party has its best ever chance of winning seats in May 2015. If defector Mark Reckless wins in Rochester this week, defeating Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst, Ukip will have gained two MPs from by-elections. Both Mr Reckless and his fellow defector Douglas Carswell, who made history when he won Clacton-on-Sea last month, may well retain their seats on 7 May, but the party is expected to win several more from the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems.

Ed Miliband questioned Ukip's record on women last week when he highlighted comments made by Mr Farage that female City workers who went on maternity leave were of less value than their male colleagues.

Ukip is, however, fielding women in some of its top target seats, including Victoria Ayling in Labour-held Great Grimsby, seen as one of the strongest prospects of a Ukip gain. Patricia Culligan is standing in Eastleigh, scene of Ukip's strongest performance in a by-election before the political earthquake in Clacton. But in the party's other top 10 target seats, the candidate is male.

Suzanne Evans, one of the party's rising stars and the deputy chairman since August, is standing in Shrewsbury and Atcham – where the Tory incumbent, Daniel Kawczynski, has a majority of nearly 8,000.

Mr Reckless is the odds-on favourite to win this week, and bookmaker Paddy Power has already started paying out on a Ukip victory. If he wins, the Tory leadership is braced for more defections. Speaking in Brisbane yesterday, where he is attending the G20 summit, David Cameron said victory for Ukip in Rochester would put the country at greater risk of "insecurity and instability in our economy". The Prime Minister told the BBC: "If … they vote Ukip, it won't be about the people of Rochester and Strood, it will be about Ukip. It'll be about another sort of notch for them.

"They will all celebrate with a pint in the pub and there will be a greater danger of insecurity and instability in our economy. That's the choice and we will fight very hard right up to polling day."