Nigel Farage accused of running scared by Tories after overnight U-turn on Newark by-election

Deputy Political Editor

Nigel Farage faced ridicule from Conservative MPs today after he ruled out of standing for the Ukip in the Newark by-election.

The Ukip leader argued that his candidature would be a distraction from his party’s drive for votes in next month’s European parliamentary elections.

He also said he had no local links with the Nottinghamshire constituency, where the Tories will defend a 16,000-plus majority following Patrick Mercer’s resignation over cash-for-questions allegations.

But his explanation was mocked by a series of Conservative MPs who took to twitter to accuse him of losing his nerve.

Ben Wallace, the MP for Lancaster and Wyre, said: “That faint clucking you can here in the distance is Nigel Farage...chicken!”

Mark Garnier, the MP for Wyre Forest, tweeted: “Nigel Farage and the Newark by-election: Man or mouse...? Pass the cheese!!! Squeek squeek...”

The former Tory vice-chairman Michael Fabricant said: “Nigel Farage is such a tease! (Or is he like G.Brown - scared of an uncertain election?) In any event, he now says he won't stand in Newark.”

The Ukip leader had keep Westminster guessing overnight over his intentions following Mr Mercer’s announcement yesterday evening that he was quitting.

 

He ended the suspense this morning, telling the BBC: “I don't want to do anything that deflects from the European election campaign, so I am not going to stand in this by-election.

“I want to focus the next three weeks on winning the European elections.”

He said: “It was only 12 hours ago that Patrick Mercer stood down, so I haven't had long to think about it. But I have thought about it and we are just over three weeks away from a European election at which I think Ukip can cause an earthquake in British politics from which we can go on and not just win one parliamentary seat, but quite a lot of parliamentary seats”

The Ukip leader said: “I don't have any links with the East Midlands, I would just look like an opportunist and I don't think that would work.”

But he added: “We will fight the Newark by-election and fight it damned hard and get a good local candidate.

”But we will also, over the course of the summer, be targeting two or three dozen seats for the general election next year. This party isn't about one politician, it's not about one man, it's not about one by-election, it's about a nationwide political movement.“

Mr Farage denied that his decision not to gamble on a run at the Newark seat revealed a lack of courage.

”I think I have shown some courage over the years. I have helped take this party from nothing into a position where last Sunday it was leading the opinion polls in a national election.

“It's about choosing the right battles, it's about prioritising.

”I know that if I had said yes to standing in Newark the next three weeks would be dominated by 'am I going to win, am I not going to win' and we wouldn't be talking about open door immigration, EU membership, most of our laws being made somewhere else and the issues on which I want us to win the European election.“

He added that there would be ”pressure and splits within the Conservative Party“ after the European elections and ”this may not be the last by-election that comes up between now and next May“.

On BBC Radio 4's Today programme he added: ”I'm a fighter, I'm a warrior but you have to pick your battles in life.“

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
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

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea