UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage will not fight Chris Huhne seat

 

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage today ruled out standing in the by-election in Eastleigh, triggered by Chris Huhne's decision to stand down as an MP.

The Liberal Democrat former energy secretary formally left Parliament today, by the archaic procedure of accepting appointment to the Chiltern Hundreds, and a date for the by-election is expected to be announced soon.

There had been speculation that Mr Farage would take the opportunity to fight a second by-election in the Hampshire constituency, having scooped 952 votes there in Ukip's first bid to win a Westminster seat in 1994.

However, there were doubts over whether the seat - a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal in the last four general elections - would be an attractive venue for a high-profile campaign for Ukip, even when the party is riding high in the polls.

Writing on The Daily Telegraph's website, Mr Farage said the idea of fighting Eastleigh "has its romance".

But he said that he did not want to be distracted from his priorities of leading the party into the English county council elections in May and heading the Ukip group of MEPs in Brussels.

"Today Ukip is no longer a small group of idealists," said Mr Farage. "We are becoming a serious player in British politics. As leader I am responsible for what is in the party's best interests.

"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."

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