UKIP aims for every seat at general election

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Buoyed by its extraordinary success last night, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is aiming to put up a candidate in every seat in the country at the next general election.

Buoyed by its extraordinary success last night, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is aiming to put up a candidate in every seat in the country at the next general election.

UKIP will parade its new haul of MEPs today, seizing the opportunity to challenge Tony Blair to veto the planned European constitution at this week's summit in Brussels.

But the party, which is committed to pulling Britain out of the European Union, is also planning to ride its current wave of popularity into the election contest expected in less than 12 months' time.

At the 2001 election it fielded 434 candidates, almost all of whom lost their deposits, and polled an average 1.5 per cent across the country. If UKIP candidates stand in all 659 constituencies and pick up an average of 10 per cent support, they may not win any seats but, by siphoning off thousands of votes from the major parties, could have a profound effect on the election's outcome.

Despite signs that the party is gathering support in all the English regions and from across the political spectrum, the Conservatives remain most at risk from the UKIP surge. Lord Tebbit, the former Tory chairman, said yesterday: "Voting UKIP for a lot of Conservative voters is a way of firing a shot across the bows of the Conservative Party. The trouble is that if they are not careful they could fire it a bit close to the waterline."

The UKIP European election campaign caught fire through a mixture of luck and skill. The lack of enthusiasm for the Tories, matched by discontent with the Government, has been adroitly managed by the party, which is being advised by the publicist Max Clifford. It achieved a public relations coup by announcing that Robert Kilroy-Silk, the former daytime television presenter, would be standing as a candidate. Before long, he was joined by the actress Joan Collins, four Tory peers and a former Tory MP.

The party built up a £2m election warchest, enabling it to outspend its larger rivals on posters and leaflets. Before long it was achieving opinion poll ratings of about 15 per cent, establishing it as best placed to pick up protest votes.

It claims to have built up a membership of around 25,000, putting it close to half the size of the Liberal Democrats. Although it gained two London Assembly seats last week, it still has only a tiny band of between 40 and 50 councillors, suggesting voters are slightly more sceptical of giving UKIP representatives a platform outside Brussels and Strasbourg.

The party's main challenge now is to break out of its single-issue straitjacket and persuade disillusioned voters that it has a fully-formed political philosophy before the general election.

Comments