Election 2017

Paul Nuttall predicts UKIP voters will return

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Media captionPaul Nuttall said its "vote share will go down, there is no doubt about that" but the party is "targeting sensibly" in certain seats

UKIP is backing Labour candidates that are "true Brexiteers" in a bid to "get the Brexit we want", its leader Paul Nuttall has claimed.

He says UKIP voters in former Labour minister Kate Hoey's Vauxhall seat are being asked to back her.

The party faces "a difficult" general election and the prospect of winning only two seats, he says.

But Mr Nuttall predicts voters will return to UKIP if Theresa May "backslides" on Brexit negotiations.

UKIP lost all but one of its county council seats in last week's local elections.

Mr Nuttall says he thinks UKIP voters have been swayed by Mrs May's "tough" talk - but suggests that if she "backslides" on fishing rights, freedom of movement and paying an EU divorce bill during Brexit negotiations, they will soon return to the fold.

"People will feel betrayed - they'll feel let down - where are those people going to go?" he told BBC2's Daily Politics.

"They are not going to go to the Lib Dems, they're not going to go to Green, they're not going to new Labour - they're going to come back to UKIP."

'Moral decision'?

Asked about reports that UKIP is telling people to vote Conservative, he said: "We're also telling people in certain seats like Kate Hoey's to go out and vote Labour.

"These are people who are true and real Brexiteers. Theresa May never was - she wanted us to remain in the European Union. They are specific seats with specific sitting MPs whereby we will stand aside to ensure we get the Brexit that we want.

"It's quite a moral thing to do really - it's about putting your country above your party."

Mr Nuttall said UKIP always knew the local elections "were going to be the most tough", particularly during a general election campaign, but stressed that "politics is cyclical".

"If UKIP stays on the pitch, I believe it's going to prosper in the future," he said.

Hailing the party's manifesto as "a decade ahead of its time", he predicted the party "may well win a couple" of seats and was "targeting sensibly" resources and manpower on a small number of constituencies.

Asked if he thought he might be the last UKIP leader, Mr Nuttall added: "No."