Nigel Farage asks Ukip followers for 'personal favour' of 'one or two days' support' in South Thanet after poll shows he may not win seat

Party leader accused of signs of desperation as he calls in his national following

Click to follow
Indy Politics

An embattled Nigel Farage has issued an appeal for help from Ukip supporters around the country, after it emerged that he is no longer favourite to the South Thanet seat in the general election.

Messages posted to Mr Farage’s official Twitter and Facebook profiles asked his followers to “please do me a personal favour” and travel to the parliamentary seat in Kent to canvass on his behalf.

Despite his combined Twitter and Facebook following of almost 350,000, the Ukip leader has been struggling to win over the voters he needs to ensure he becomes an MP in May.

Mr Farage has admitted he is “a bit stretched” running both national and personal election campaigns, and is struggling in South Thanet against a strong anti-Ukip movement and accusations of a lack of focus on local issues. Yesterday a new ComRes poll commissioned by Ukip’s wealthiest donor Arron Banks found that Mr Farage is one point behind the Tory candidate for South Thanet, Craig Mackinlay, and only one point ahead of Labour’s Will Scobie. A Ukip spokesman dismissed the survey as “rogue”.

But Mr Farage – who has promised to stand aside as party leader if he fails to win the seat – is clearly rattled.

In a Facebook message, he asked of his followers around the country: “I know a lot of you are fighting your own campaigns locally, but if you could spare just one or two days, I’d really appreciate the support.

“More than 500 of you came and helped on my first action day and it was a tremendous success. We’re going to be delivering postal voter leaflets, adverts for our public meetings, and doing some canvassing too! So please do me a personal favour, and come along on the 11th.”

It came as the party was accused of being “cynical” and “misleading” over the apparent defection of former Conservative election candidate Mike Whitehead in the safe Labour seat of Hull West and Hessle.

Nigel Farage described Mr Whitehead’s decision to join Ukip as “another hammer blow” to the Tories – but a spokesman for the Conservative Party said Mr Whitehead had in fact already been sacked almost a week earlier.

Amid speculation about Mr Farage’s future, even members of the party have started talking up other options. Senior Ukip MEP Diane James named three possible players for a future leadership contest on Sunday night and told BBC Radio 5 she was “not in the least” dreading a possible departure for Mr Farage.

2We have got a very, very high calibre of individuals within Ukip,” Ms James said. “They are frequently on the BBC and other media outlets - Suzanne Evans, Patrick O'Flynn, Paul Nuttall.

“There are people there waiting. When the leadership race is announced, then I am sure individuals will put their hats into the ring.”