Nigel Farage to fight Thanet seat for UKIP in 2015

Nigel Farage: "I've taken on yet another very big challenge - but one that I relish"

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Nigel Farage has been chosen by UKIP members to fight the South Thanet seat in Kent at the 2015 general election.

Speaking before the hustings where he was selected, the party leader also suggested he would stand down if UKIP failed to win any seats in Westminster.

Mr Farage beat three other candidates in the hustings vote held in Ramsgate.

He hopes to become UKIP's first MP as the party seeks to capitalise on the momentum of its recent first place in the European Parliament elections.

The Conservatives have chosen a former UKIP leader, Craig MacKinlay, to contest the seat they won in 2010.

'Scrape through'

Mr Farage contested Thanet South, as the seat was then known, at the 2005 general election but came fourth with just 5% of the vote.

After being selected this time, he told the BBC he was pleased he "managed to scrape through", adding that addressing fellow UKIP members made him "nervous" as they are a "bloody-minded lot".

He said: "I'm going to have to fight very, very hard and build up a big voluntary team to make this work, but I believe I can do it."

Prior to the hustings, Mr Farage had insisted he was the man to campaign for the South Thanet seat, given he has served as an MEP for the area and has "good personal relationships" with its county councillors.

He said, although he was busy, he would be there to do the job.

"Yes I'm a busy person, I'm a party leader, but I will be an MP for you and I'll help put this place - that's at the end of the line, a bit forgotten, a bit left behind - and I hope I can help put it back on the map," he said.

Mr Farage said the idea that UKIP could not win seats in Westminster was now gone.

'Stone bonkers'

"I always set the bar as high as I possibly can," he said.

"I said three years ago we'd win the European elections. Everybody thought I was stone bonkers and we did it.

"I am telling you today we will win seats in Parliament next year. If we don't I will have failed as leader and I won't be here."

He refused to put a number on the amount of seats the party might win but speculated "we may win enough seats to hold the balance of power".

Meanwhile, Mr Farage said it would be "difficult" to work with David Cameron in any coalition, but said he would do a deal to get a referendum on the European Union with "almost anybody".

"The point is if UKIP win seats in Westminster in sufficient quantity, we will get a referendum on our membership of the EU and we will get one that conducted in free and fair terms," he added.

Tory candidate Mr MacKinlay said his party was no more concerned about facing Mr Farage in the South Thanet seat than any other candidate.

"The real concern down there is a Labour win. Labour have always been the second party in South Thanet and I think that's true today," he said.

"So no more concerned about Nigel than we would be about any other UKIP candidate standing there."

Laura Sandys, who was elected to Parliament for the Conservatives in 2010 and has a majority of 7,617, is standing down as South Thanet MP at the next general election.

As well as fighting Mr MacKinlay, the UKIP leader will go up against Ian Driver for the Greens, Will Scobie for Labour and Russ Timpson for the Liberal Democrats.

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