WE’RE ready to topple every MP in the Portsmouth region – that’s the bold message from Ukip after the party clinched another by-election victory.
(Video by Sam Poole)
The anti-European Union party won its second seat in Parliament this week – and has said that it aims to target Portsmouth and south Hampshire at the general election to add to that total.
It comes after Mark Reckless, who defected from the Tories, won the Rochester and Strood by-election with a majority of 2,920.
Ukip national leader Nigel Farage told The News the party hierarchy is now gearing up to take over the Portsmouth area at next year’s general election – and hinted Havant and Portsmouth South were particular targets.
But Ukip’s rivals have warned they’re going to put up a huge fight defending their seats in the run-up to the ballot in May and will work hard making voters realise Ukip isn’t the way to go.
Mr Farage said: ‘The message is, in our key seats where we have got strength, and Portsmouth is among those, the message is if you vote Ukip, you get Ukip.
‘We are going to be fighting them all hard.
‘Within the Portsmouth geographical area, there are one or two seats that look particularly promising, and the more marginal the seats, the better chance we have got because our support is across the spectrum.
‘I think it’s a really exciting time for British politics.
‘The whole thing has been thrown up in the air.’
Cllr Steve Hastings, Portsmouth’s deputy Ukip group leader, said the party was ‘gunning’ to sweep the area after it seized Rochester, which was identified as its 271st most winnable seat in the country.
‘I think this particular result (in Rochester) is game-changing,’ Cllr Hastings said.
‘I think we could get a result here.
‘We don’t have a candidate for Portsmouth South, we do for Portsmouth North, and the hustings is coming up on December 12.
‘We will be gunning for it big-time in Portsmouth now.’
Ukip won its first seat in parliament last month after Douglas Carswell defeated the Conservatives, his former party, in Clacton by a landslide.
Speculation is rife over whether the Tories will be able to hang on in Havant given long-term MP David Willetts is bowing out.
And in Portsmouth South, it’s all to play for as it is still uncertain whether independent MP Mike Hancock will defend his seat and stand against the likes of his former Lib Dem party colleague, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson.
Mr Hancock said Ukip were no bigger a threat than anyone else.
‘They say that about Portsmouth South – but they haven’t even got a candidate yet,’ he said.
‘I don’t see them as being more a danger than anyone else. Everyone will be thinking they are in with a shout.’
John Perry, Ukip’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Havant, who is a retired engineer and accountant from Hayling Island, said seats were no longer safe.
‘I think we have a great opportunity in Havant,’ he said.
‘Not just in Havant, but also the south coast from Eastleigh and further west through to Havant.
‘There are a number of opportunities for us here.
‘I don’t think any Conservative is now safe, even if the majority in the last general election was 10,000 or more (in Havant).
‘I have a quiet sense of optimism. I’m excited.’
But Alan Mak, who was chosen as the Tory parliamentary candidate for Havant, said he is ‘not fazed’ by Ukip’s rise and is instead focused on winning over the people of the borough.
‘My focus is not based on speculation, it’s on the residents,’ he said.
‘I was selected at an open primary so I would like to think I have got support from all sections of the constituency.
‘I am delivering a very energetic campaign and we have already seen some Ukip supporters who came to that primary, and other residents who support Ukip, come over to us. So that’s great.
‘I can tell you my game was already stepped up the minute I was selected.’
MP insist they will take this result seriously
MPS insist they are not alarmed by Ukip’s rise – but are not resting on their laurels as the clock ticks down to the general election.
Tory Fareham MP Mark Hoban said: ‘Ukip has no councillors in the Fareham constituency.
‘They have not polled well in the local elections.
‘I think if constituents see councillors and an MP who are working hard and deliver then I think that dents the appeal of Ukip.
‘I have never been complacent and never take the voters of Fareham for granted.’
George Hollingbery, Tory MP for Meon Valley, said: ‘I think there are a whole slew of people who really feel they are not being listened to and feel they are being left behind by the three main political parties.’
But he stressed it was a by-election and many people may have voted Ukip as a protest.
He pointed towards the Conservatives creating a strong economic recovery and bringing more jobs to the Portsmouth area.
But he added: ‘I think any politician who does not take this seriously and does not look to their electorate to see what they are doing is a fool.
‘We all need to understand that this group exists in all constituencies across the country.
‘We need to make an effort to talk to these people and address the
issues which they are worrying about most.’
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage didn’t think the Rochester win was as convincing as Ukip had hoped for – but she admitted MPs were in a ‘vulnerable’ position and needed to step up their game.
‘There are still lessons to be learned in the run-up to the general election,’ she said.
‘All MPs need to understand that they are vulnerable, which is why we are mostly working extremely hard to promote that we are doing the job and we are representing people.’
Farage says more defections could be on the cards
NIGEL Farage has declared he would be ‘very surprised’ if more Tory MPs did not jump ship and join his party in the run-up to the general election next year.
It comes despite a number of prominent Tory Eurosceptics, including John Baron, Philip Davies and Stewart Jackson, declaring their continuing allegiance to the party after the Rochester vote.
Prime minister David Cameron has vowed to win back the seat at the elections in May.
He said: ‘I am absolutely determined to win this seat back at the next general election, because anything other than a Conservative government will put our recovery at risk and Ed Miliband in Downing Street.
‘I am more determined than ever to deliver security for Britain.’
Mr Farage said the result showed his party was now capable of winning anywhere in the country.
‘I would be very surprised, given where we are, if there weren’t more defections between now and the next general election,’ he said.
Tory chief whip Michael Gove insisted he remained ‘100 per cent certain’ there would be no more defections, although leader of the Commons William Hague sounded less sure, saying: ‘I don’t have a crystal ball about what every MP will do.’
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