Ukip leader hails 'great opportunity' to win Boston and Skegness


Ukip leader Paul Nuttall says he has a "great opportunity" to win the Lincolnshire seat of Boston and Skegness in the General Election, after he announced he would be standing in the constituency.

Mr Nuttall ended speculation about where he would be standing just before arriving in Hartlepool - another seat touted as a possible focus for his campaign - to explain his strategy to pick key seats and "target ruthlessly in terms of manpower and finances".

Despite starting his weekend campaigning 165 miles away from the seat he has chosen to contest, he said it was "a great honour and a privilege" to be standing for Ukip in Tory-held Boston and Skegness.

Asked why he had chosen the seat, Mr Nuttall told the Press Association: "Because we have a great opportunity there. We've got councillors right across the constituency.

"It voted to leave the European Union by 70% to 30%.

"I think we've got a great chance of running an active campaign and the branch was very keen that I stood in that area."

But when asked why he was in Hartlepool, he said: "I never said I was standing in Hartlepool. I was always coming here today. It's been in the diary for weeks.

"I want to get there now and campaign alongside our local activists because we believe we have a great chance in Hartlepool. We only need a 4% swing to take the seat off Labour."

Mr Nuttall skipped a planned mini-rally with supporters outside a Hartlepool pub after a violent confrontation in front of the venue between two women - a local resident and an anti-Ukip protester.

He moved to another Hartlepool pub to conduct media interviews before knocking on doors and meeting voters in the street in the Headland area of the city.

When it was put to him that he is unlikely to win the Lincolnshire seat, he said: "Who knows? There's six weeks to go in this campaign, the Conservative MP campaigned to remain during the referendum, 70% of people voted to leave the European Union and we've got a good active branch. We'll be giving it a good go."

Turning to the national picture, Mr Nuttall said: "Politics is cyclical. We did well in 2015. We got four million votes but we only won one seat.

"What's more important in this election is that we win seats. Vote share is pretty much irrelevant. So what we've got to do is to dig down into local constituencies, pick key seats and, indeed, target ruthlessly in terms of manpower and finances."

And asked about his party being painted as anti-Muslim, he said: "It's about bringing people together, not sowing division. I utterly reject in any way, shape or form that Ukip is anti-Muslim."

Mr Nuttall rejected the suggestion that Ukip was irrelevant now the referendum was over. He said: "We've only won half the war."

The Ukip leader said: "We need Ukip on the pitch, we need Ukip to be the guard dog and we need Ukip to be the backbone of these negotiations and this Brexit campaign. Ukip has got a long job ahead."

Matt Warman won Boston and Skegness for the Tories in 2015 with a majority over Ukip of 4,336.

Sue Blackburn, chairman of the Ukip Boston and Skegness branch, said: "As branch chairman, I would like to say on behalf of the Boston and Skegness branch how delighted we are to have our leader standing in this election and Paul will have the upmost support of this branch."