Published: 13:00, 09 July 2014
| Updated: 14:42, 09 July 2014
The Tory who has been selected for the seat being eyed up as a potential opening into Westminster by UKIP leader Nigel Farage has confirmed he will be giving up his seat on Medway council.
Craig Mackinlay, who represents River ward, has been named as the Thanet South candidate in what will be a key constituency battleground at next year's general election.
He could have restood in Medway - his colleague Rehman Chishti is still a councillor after being elected an MP - and now risks being booted out of politics altogether should the popular Mr Farage take him on in east Kent. The UKIP leader has said it is a “distinct possibility” he would put his name forward for the seat.
But Cllr Mackinlay, a Eurosceptic and ex-UKIP member, said it would be “daft” for his former colleague to stand against him. He added: “It would be a rather silly thing for UKIP to do when, on the issue of the EU, I am a candidate with the same views as UKIP. It would be daft to split the vote and let Labour through the middle and then we won’t get a vote [on Europe].”
Cllr Mackinlay has fought two parliamentary elections before - but as a UKIP candidate in Gillingham in 2005 and Totnes in Devon in 2001. He joined the Conservatives in 2005, having served briefly as leader, vice chairman and treasurer for UKIP. He stood as Tory candidate for the Kent police commissioner job in 2012 but was defeated by Ann Barnes.
He said he was delighted to have been picked for Thanet South and is looking forward to a “long hard campaign”. "I am delighted to be selected and feel elated. The depth of Euroscepticism is very important here [Thanet].”
Cllr Mackinlay has already started on the campaign trail. He was in the area on Saturday5.7, the day after his selection was announced.
He said: “There is lots going on at the moment with summer fetes and other events so I was down there on Saturday with [current MP] Laura Sandys who was introducing me to various community groups. The reception I got was very welcoming.
“I am always a regular visitor down there because I love sailing and I have lots of connections with friends. It’s like my second home.”
Cllr Mackinlay believes his experience as a councillor in Medway provides a good background for standing in Thanet. The demographic in Thanet South has lots of similarities to Medway. It has its affluent areas and deprived areas.”
Cllr Mackinlay, a former Rainham Mark Grammar School pupil, became a Conservative councillor for River in 2007, a ward that had been historically Labour held. He was the Conservative candidate in the police commissioner elections in 2012.
He said: “I was born and raised in Medway and have represented the ward where I live. I have done some good things and transformed River ward in many ways. I feel I have made a difference here and when you have done that, I think you can leave with your head held high.”
UKIP leader Nigel Farage is expected to reveal where he will stand in the next few weeks.
Following Cllr Mackinlay’s selection he said: “I’m not interested in who stands for the Conservative Party or the Labour Party. Thanet South is a three-way marginal. The last raw data we had from opinion polls put the parties within 2 per cent of each other. UKIP will fight Thanet South to win.”
The current Conservative MP for Thanet South, Laura Sandys, announced last year she intended to stand down for personal reasons.
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