Paul Nuttall has just confirmed he will be standing in the upcoming election. The Ukip leader promised to be ‘leading the party into battle’ on June 8th. Where he stands, we’ll have to wait and see. Nuttall said that he would announce in the next 48 hours which seat he planned to target. In a statement, Nuttall said:
‘As the leader of the party I will be, obviously, leading the party into battle as I have done many times in the past’
Nuttall might now be saying his decision was obvious, but it hasn’t always looked that way. Earlier this week, when journalists tried to pin him down on the question of whether he would be running for Parliament, he locked himself in a room, emerging only to say that Ukip leaders who had come before him ‘have done quite well not being in Parliament’. Now, it seems, he has come to his senses. After all, Nuttall would have been only the second party leader to sit out of a general election since Lord Salisbury at the turn of the century: hardly a good message to send out for a party battling the suggestion that it lacks a purpose after Brexit.
Yet by saying he’ll run, Nuttall has inevitably heaped pressure on himself in another way. After his disappointing showing in the Stoke by-election, the critics piled in. Nigel Farage said the defeat was a disappointment and suggested that the campaign could have focussed more on immigration. While Nuttall’s predecessor as Ukip leader, Diane James, also criticised the way in which the campaign had been run, saying that a shake-up was needed to prevent a repeat of the failure in Stoke. If Nuttall does pull off a Ukip victory and win a seat in Parliament, he’ll secure his future as leader and give his party a badly-needed boost in one fell swoop. If he fails, the vultures will inevitable descend again, and come June 9th Jeremy Corbyn might not be the only party leader facing questions about his future.