I always thought that it was unlikely that Nigel Farage would stand in Newark. When I discussed the prospect of a by-election there with him on Monday, he seemed drawn to the idea of a local candidate; pointing out how the Canadian Reform Party had secured their key by-election breakthrough with ‘a completely unknown geography mistress, who lived in the town, who had lots of relations there’.

Farage’s decision not to stand is a recognition that the Tories are bound to pick a local candidate and that their campaign would paint him as someone who is interested in what Newark could do for him, not what he could do for Newark. One of the lessons that Farage took away from his unsuccessful campaign in Buckingham in 2010 is that you can’t turn up somewhere where you have no roots and no connections and immediately ask people to make you their MP.

There’s much chatter about Farage being ‘frit’ this morning. Frankly, if Ukip top the polls in the European Elections—as another poll has them on course to this morning—all this will be irrelevant. Ukip will have had its breakthrough moment and the Newark by-election will be fought on its terms. But if Ukip don’t come top in the Europeans, and with Farage not running in Newark, then there’ll be a sense that Ukip has missed its moment. The stakes for Ukip on May 22nd could not be higher. ​

Tags: European Elections, Newark by-election, Nigel Farage, Patrick Mercer, UKIP