Nigel Farage has confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in the political world: he aims to contest the marginal seat of South Thanet at next year's general election.
"I am no shoo-in for South Thanet, but I have thrown my hat in the ring," the Ukip leader tweeted.
The announcement by Farage, who stood in the Kent seat in 2005, follows the publication of a poll last month by the Tory peer Lord Ashcroft which suggested that Ukip would win the seat. It placed Ukip on 32%, ahead of the Conservatives on 30% and Labour on 27%. Laura Sandys, the Tory incumbent who is standing down at the next election, captured the seat from Labour at the last election with a majority of 7,617.
The Conservatives have selected Craig Mackinlay – a founding member of Ukip – as their candidate next year. Farage stood in the seat in the 2005 general election, coming fourth on 5% of the vote.
In his Independent column, Farage wrote of how he has decided to put himself forward for the Ukip nomination in South Thanet, where he says he will face tough competition. He wrote: "I have thrown my hat in the ring, but so have others, including a top-class barrister and friend of mine. It may seem silly to some that the leader of a party would have to go through the process of being approved and selected but, I assure you, rank means nothing in Ukip.
"Of course I think I stand a good chance of winning. I have fought the seat before and it is in my home county of Kent and an area I have represented in the European Parliament since 1999. But with Ukip members, nothing is ever for certain. And that's just fine by me."
Farage's suggestion that his adoption as the Ukip candidate in South Thanet is far from inevitable echoes the tactics of Boris Johnson, who announced earlier this month that he hopes to stand for parliament, only to admit that he will probably fail to find a seat. The Ukip leader and the London mayor attract the sort of media attention that is rivalled only by that of the prime minister.
The FT revealed last October that Farage intended to stand in South Thanet. The Ukip leader, who lives in Kent, recently made it clear that he would only stand in a seat with which he has personal connections. He believes it was a mistake to have challenged the speaker John Bercow in Buckingham in 2010. Farage came third on 17.4% of the vote.
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