UKIP’s deputy leader has confirmed the party is targeting Northumberland’s Blyth Valley seat.
Nigel Farage’s second-in-command, Paul Nuttall MEP, was in the coastal constituency for the second time in a matter of weeks and said the seat – which is widely regarded as safe Labour territory – is a target for Ukip, while neighbouring Wansbeck was also “of great interest”.
Sitting Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell’s majority has dropped to 6,668 in 2010 from 17,736 in 2001.
The 71-year-old – who is for having a referendum on membership of the European Union – said Ukip was running an “ageist” campaign.
He added this election will be the last time he stands but he was nonetheless confident of a Labour victory.
It comes three months after Ukip opened its North East headquarters off Blyth high street, just a stone’s throw away from Mr Campbell’s office.
“Demographically, it is perfect for Ukip if you look at the people who came over to us at the recent election,” said Paul Nuttall, who is an MEP in the North West.
“We are investing in the constituency and building for the future.
“We are going to put in a very good performance – but it isn’t just about the short-term political gain, this is a long-term target seat.
“With Hartlepool, Blyth sticks out and we did very well in the South Shields by-election too, remember.”
Ukip has remained tight-lipped about its target seats but the MEP could not deny Blyth is now ranked among them.
He could not cite any polling data which says Blyth voters are shunning Labour but confirmed the party will be throwing resources at the campaign there.
“The reports that we hear are very positive, as are the ones we get from Wansbeck,” said Mr Nuttall.
“I’m not going to deny that we are parking our tanks on Labour’s lawn in Blyth. Barry Elliott is a great candidate and he has a good team around him.”
“Ukip has nothing to offer Blyth. We do not have a problem with immigration at all.
“Ukip has talked about being a target for a while. In the North East for them, it is Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, South Shields and us.
“I don’t know why they are targeting me. We are canvassing every day, I was out knocking on doors this morning. I hear that they tell people that I’m too old and that I should retire.
“I have a few years left in me yet. People don’t like ageism. Ageism is just as bad as racism.
“If they can manage to turn over my 6,668 majority then I haven’t done my job for the people of Blyth.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2015