Paul Nuttall set to be Ukip candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election


Ukip leader Paul Nuttall looks set to be the party's candidate to fight the crucial Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.

A Ukip source confirmed Mr Nuttall has "thrown his hat into the ring" and will participate in a local hustings event alongside other nominees on Friday before the candidate is confirmed on Saturday.

The leader's presence on the nominations list puts him in pole position to be the party's candidate for what will be a highly significant battle to take the seat from Labour.

Mr Nuttall's decision to enter the race indicates that Ukip believes it has a strong chance of winning the by-election triggered by the resignation of leading Labour moderate Tristram Hunt.

Labour is due to choose a candidate on January 25 to fight the seat, which becomes vacant with historian Mr Hunt's appointment as director of the V&A Museum.

Labour has held Stoke-on-Trent Central since the constituency's creation in 1950, with a vote-share of 66% and majority of 49.5%, making it one of the party's safest strongholds in 1997.

But its majority has since fallen to 17%, with Ukip surging by 18 points to take second place in 2015.

Stoke voted 65.7% for Leave in last year's EU referendum, which is likely to have tempted Mr Nuttall into an attempt to make good on his promise to replace Labour as the party of choice for working-class communities in the Midlands and North of England.

The election will be held on February 23 alongside a separate poll in Copeland, triggered by the resignation of another leading Labour moderate, Jamie Reed.