Did Nigel Farage Bottle Newark?

Backbencher May 8, 2014 0
Did Nigel Farage Bottle Newark?

Nigel Farage has yet again featured in the media spotlight this week after facing a barrage of criticism across the political spectrum for not contesting the Newark constituency by-election.

Mr Farage faced embarrassment during an interview on Sky News when he was asked if he had “bottled it” and replied, “yes”. Now it seems that in typical fashion, the UKIP leader is now retracting this statement by insisting he did not ‘bottle” the Newark by-election by insisting that he would look like an ‘opportunist’ and vowed to focus on the forthcoming European elections which will take place on 22nd May.

In the Daily Telegraph, Farage was quoted to have justified his decision by stating that “It was only 12 hours ago that Patrick Mercer stood down so I haven’t had long to think about it. But I have thought about it and we’re just over three weeks away from a European election at which I think UKIP can cause an earthquake in British politics, from which we can go on and not just win one parliamentary seat but win quite a lot of parliamentary seats and for that reason I don’t want to do anything that deflects from the European election campaign, so I am not going to stand in this by-election”. However, Farage has again used press attention to not just outline UKIP’s agenda, but to reiterate his confidence in UKIP’s ability to allegedly stun British politics.

For many, Farage’s decision not to contest the by-election would raise doubts of UKIP’s political competency as a national force. What is striking about this is that the media and various political figures have been rather quick to voice their criticism and ‘incompetence’ of the UKIP leader, which would please the main parties. Taking to social media, Tory MP Ben Wallace branded Farage a ‘chicken’, while for Labour shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves called him a coward by stating he ‘didn’t want to fight’. In response to this criticism, Farage said his opponents can “say what they like” and that “a wise general chooses his battles”. Farage importantly added the war-cry rhetoric by suggesting that “I’m a fighter. I’m a warrior. But you have to pick your battles in life” – a statement that wouldn’t look out of place in a clichéd Hollywood war film.

It can be argued that Farage’s decision, although to some would consider it logical, could backfire as he has missed the chance to prove that people want him as a member of parliament. Perhaps the by-election has come at the wrong time for UKIP with Farage reiterating how close away the European elections are.

However, it cannot be denied that Farage’s decision has highlighted weaknesses and this would subsequently raise questions over the political compatibility of UKIP. Some have suggested that the news will come as a relief to David Cameron, who was facing the prospect of a potentially damaging contest against Mr Farage. At the moment we can only wait until the results of the European elections to determine whether Farage’s decision was a wise move in UKIP’s election campaign.

Benjamin Pratt

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