Nigel Farage told me on Monday how closely he was watching the situation in Newark. He introduced the subject by saying, “there’s one other thing that could change everything”.
But Farage’s comments to me yesterday make me think that he’s unlikely to stand in Newark. He said that he’d ‘been looking at candidates’ and mused on how just one MP would make such a difference. He pointed to how the Canadian Reform party had won a seat in a by-election in 1989 and then go on to become the largest opposition party in at the next election.
What struck me about this anecdote was how taken Farage was by the fact that the Reform party had picked “a completely unknown geography mistress, who lived in the town, who had lots of relations there”. He seemed to think that this was the key to their success, and it is this that makes me think he’ll take some persuading not to back a local candidate in Newark. Indeed, one of the things that Farage took away from his experience in Buckingham at the last election was how hard it is for an outsider to turn up a constituency and immediately lay claim to representing it in parliament.
What’s for certain, though, is that Ukip will be formidable challengers in Newark. Ukip already has an organisation there and I suspect party activists will stream into the seat in the way that Liberal Democrats do for by-elections. With the party throwing all its resources at it and with the momentum that the European Elections, Ukip is going to have the best chance it has ever had of getting its first Westminster MP.