UKIP leader Paul Nuttall is set to stand in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election, as the party seeks to win the seat from Labour.
Party sources told an ITV News reporter that the MEP is “definitely” going to stand for the Midlands seat, and he is expected to be announced as UKIP’s candidate at an event on Saturday.
— Alison Mackenzie (@Alison1mackITV) January 18, 2017
Labour MP and former Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt vacated the seat earlier this month after he accepted a new job as the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
UKIP and the Conservatives were effectively tied at the last election, with UKIP winning just 33 more votes than the Tories.
Labour’s share of the vote in the constituency has been falling for some years, and both rivals need just an 8.6 per cent swing to snatch it from Labour.
Furthermore, almost 70 per cent of the city voted for Brexit, significantly above the UK average of 51.9 per cent.
Labour backed remaining inside the European Union (EU), and UKIP has already said they will focus considerable resources on trying to win the seat.
Mr. Hunt, the son of Julian, Baron Hunt of Chesterton, was born in Cambridge and is a lecturer in modern British History at Queen Mary University of London.
The local Labour party had referred him to as the “Google candidate”, as it was alleged that he had to use Google to find out where Stoke-on-Trent was.
Mr. Nuttall has advocated targeting former Labour voters in working class areas for around ten years, and with the Labour party currently riven with division and leaning to the far-left, he could see an opportunity.
Mr. Nuttall told The Telegraph at the weekend: “I think we have got a very good chance of winning it. It will be a professionally run, hard fought campaign.
“We will be giving this one a good go. This is a seat that we have been looking at for quite a long time. It could kick-start UKIP’s move in working class communities.”
The MEP for northwest England was elected with 62.6 per cent in November last year, taking over from Nigel Farage, who was installed as interim leader after Diane James stepped down after just 18 days in the job.