Nigel Farage has written to UKIP supporters asking them to come and help him in Thanet South, after the Conservatives began piling in huge numbers of party activists. Farage is generally expected to win the seat but a poll last week put the party one percent behind.
At the weekend the Conservative campaign group Team2015 sent 75 activists to Thanet South led by the football ace Sol Campbell. They have also launched the website WhereIsNigel.com, which claims he rarely visits the seat. The Conservatives currently hold Thanet South but since the last general election UKIP won every county council seat covering the constituency.
The Tories have also replaced the pro-European local MP Laura Sandys with Craig Mackinlay who was UKIP deputy leader before defecting to the Conservatives. Party top brass are desperate to claim the seat as Nigel Farage has pledged to stand down as UKIP leader if he loses.
UKIP party managers are in an impossible situation because they expect to win Thanet South, but cannot take the risk of a loss. As a result they are forced to pile in resources they would have rather have used in other parts of the country.
They faced a similarly tough choice last year when two by-elections were held on the same day in Clacton and Heywood & Middleton. The party poured most of their resources into Clacton fearing a humiliation if Douglas Carswell was not re-elected having stood down and forced the by-election after he defected.
In the end, Carswell won with a majority of over 12k, while UKIP fell 617 votes short of taking Heywood and Middleton. The party now has a strategy similar to that of the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown, to target a few seats and move to new areas at every election.
Their key targets are: Thanet South, Castlepoint, Heywood and Middleton, Great Grimsby and Rotherham. Privately UKIP bosses say they are confident of holding both their existing two seats in Clacton and Rochester.
The first-past-the-post electoral system is a major hurdle for UKIP. Under a proportional system the party’s 14 percent in the polls would equate to 91 MPs , but they are not expected to get anywhere near that number. Nigel Farage said he expects to win “more than a handful” of seats, but would not be more specific.
According to Politics Home Farage sent an email asking supporters to do “him a personal favour” and join him on an “Action Day” to help deliver leaflets, canvass and put up adverts for UKIP public meetings.