Nigel Farage has said he will quit as Leader of UKIP if he fails to win a Parliamentary seat at the next election. In his new book he has said it would not be “credible” for him to lead if he was forced to “brief UKIP policy from the Westminster Arms”.
In the new book, “The Purple Revolution”, serialised in today’s Telegraph he explains the pledge is a “gamble” but he believe he is likely to win. Farage is running in South Thanet, which is currently held by the Conservative Laura Sandys, who is standing down. It is rumoured she decided to leave when UKIP swept the board in the County Council elections in the area last year.
While Farage is likely to win, and is currently polling 11 percent ahead, he did lose badly in South Thanet at the 2005 election. In 2010 he ran in Buckingham against John Bercow, coming in third behind both the Speaker and the Buckinghamshire Campaign for Democracy. However, this was long before the UKIP surge and the by-election wins in Clacton and Rochester.
In the book Mr Farage says: “The consequences of me failing to secure a seat for myself in the Commons would be significant for both myself and the party. It is frankly just not credible for me to continue to lead the party without a Westminster seat.
“What credibility would Ukip have in the Commons if others had to enunciate party policy in Parliament and the party leader was only allowed in as a guest? Was I supposed to brief Ukip policy from the Westminster Arms? No – if I fail to win South Thanet, it is curtains for me. I will have to step down.”
Farage’s comments are likely to motivate UKIP activists to follow their leaders plan to concentrate on a few winnable seats so as not to spread their resources too thinly. Party high command are keen to copy the old Liberal Democrat tactic under Paddy Ashdown of targeting specific seats.
The policy made it possible for the Lib Dems to capitalise on local government wins and incumbency to win more seats at every election. South Thanet is now a three-way marginal, with UKIP taking support from both Labour and the Conservatives.
May now looks set to be the end of the line for most of the major party leaders. Whichever parties are not in government at the end of the election are likely to shed their party leader. The most vulnerable is probably Nick Clegg who would probably be challenged by Tim Farron MP if he lost. Neither David Cameron nor Ed Miliband is expected to stay on if they lose.
Ironically Natalie Bennett from the Green Party is widely expected to survive the cull, despite some disastrous recent media appearances. She was recently re-elected for a year, under a system that makes her hard to remove.