Ukip has four key target seats in Essex and Kent it hopes to win on Thursday. In order of likelihood of victory, Clacton, Rochester & Strood, South Thanet and Thurrock are the constituencies to watch on election night. I visited three of these seats yesterday, to find out how each of the candidates are feeling about the impending election, as well as their predictions of how well Ukip will do.
1. South Thanet
Ukip candidate: Nigel Farage
Last Ashcroft poll: Ukip two points behind Tories
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) May 2, 2015
Nigel Farage held his final three public meetings on Saturday. In a Ramsgate social club, the Ukip leader warmed up the 15o-strong crowd — many of whom weren’t Ukip members — with his typical rhetoric about the Westminster establishment going to the same schools, letting the British people decide their own future and the problems of housing and immigration. He also threw in some new rhetoric about BBC bias and, surprisingly, defended Ed Miliband on how he’s been treated by the press:
‘Whatever you think about Ed Miliband, the fact is the way the Tory press has talked about him on a personal level, frankly, I find pretty disgusting.’
His aides said this meeting was the most boisterous of the day. I caught up with Farage afterwards, who said he’s ‘confident not complacent’ about his chances of election on Thursday. His also described the Scottish nationalists as bullies who need standing up to:
‘If you appease a bully the bully always come back for more. And we keep appeasing the SNP and the more we appease them the more they take. What I’m saying let’s get a bit tough with them. They might actually then wake up to the economic realities of life. At least I hope so.’
Ukip candidate: Douglas Carswell
2014 by-election result: Ukip returned 35 points ahead of Tories
Douglas Carswell was also in an ebullient mood yesterday. Chatting in his campaign office in Clacton-on-Sea, he was confident of his reelection chances. ‘I don’t want to sound complacent but it’s going incredibly well’, he said. As you see in the video interview above, Carswell argued that Ukip is the only party who can offer ‘real change’, compared to the ‘Tweedledee vs Tweedledum’ of the other parties.
He was optimistic about how well Ukip will do on Thursday. ‘You are going to see in effect lots of by-elections,’ he said. ‘You are going to see seats that aren’t even on Ukip’s target list where we are going to win’. As with Farage’s team in Thanet, Carswell thinks that the shy Ukip vote will emerge on polling day:
‘There is a shy kipper phenomenon if you like – I was looking at some data for telephone canvas polls vs online polls and it seems quite striking that Ukip is very significantly higher in online polls. And I suspect that because of the barrage of smear and jeer from one or two of our state funded broadcasters, I think perhaps some Ukip supporters have been a little bit reticicent to say they’re Ukip supporters…but it’s a secret ballot and I think we’re doing to see a significantly higher number of actually for Ukip in the ballot box that declare it when phoned up’.
Ukip candidate: Tim Aker
Last Ashcroft poll: Ukip four points ahead of Labour
— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) May 2, 2015
Tim Aker thinks his campaign to replace the Conservative Jackie Doyle-Price is ‘going well’. Joining him on the streets of St Paul’s ward on Saturday afternoon, Aker was delivering scores of ‘handwritten’ letters to residents — which were in fact printed letters with handwritten envelopes. Many other politicians use this tactic as it’d be mad for someone to write the same letter longhand over and over again:
On the doorstep, Aker said ‘vote Ukip, get Ukip is what I’m hearing. We’re up in the polls, we’re seeing our boards everywhere…people want a local MP’. Although the polls suggest Thurrock is a three-way marginal, Aker insisted ‘it’s a race between Labour and Ukip and if any Conservatives are thinking voting Conservative, they will just end up helping Labour’. Lord Ashcroft’s most recent polling has bolstered Ukip’s campaign so much in Thurrock they have put it on a leaflet. Despite having a four-point lead in the most recent marginal poll, Aker has printed the raw numbers without weighting:
Like Carswell, Aker beleives Ukip will do better on Thursday than the national polls currently suggest. ‘I think people will be very surprised at the Ukip strength,’ he said. ‘The surge has begun, the momentum is with us and I think we’ll get a fair few MPs.’ He wouldn’t be drawn into what he would do as an MP, except saying that his priorities are ‘Thurrock first, Thurrock second, third, fourth and fifth’. Borrowing from the Liberal Democrat textbook, Aker is promising to be a good local MP. His priorities include bringing back a bus service to London, a new grammar school for Thurrock and ‘we want to be recognised again’. And if he doesn’t win? ‘We’ll keep fighting away’.