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Craig Mackinlay, Medway councillor and former UKIP member on three-strong Conservative shortlist for Thanet South seat

By Paul Francis

UKIP leader Nigel Farage could be locking horns with a former party member in the battle to become the next MP for a key Kent seat.

Craig Mackinlay, from Medway, is on a three-strong shortlist to become the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate in Thanet South in the general election in 2015.

Mr Mackinlay was active in UKIP for 12 years before re-joining the Conservatives in 2005.
He stood in several general elections as a UKIP candidate, contesting the Devon seat of Totnes in 2001 and Gillingham in 2005. He also stood in the 1994, 1999 and 2004 European elections.

Laura Sandys
Laura Sandys

During his time with UKIP, he was briefly party leader in 1997 and was a vice chairman and treasurer.

Mr Mackinlay, who is a Medway councillor, was the Conservative candidate in the election for Kent’s first police commissioner in 2012 but lost out to the independent candidate Ann Barnes.

The Thanet South constituency association will hold a selection meeting on Friday (4) and Mackinlay will be up against two other candidates.

Tony Devenish is a Westminster City councillor and was a candidate in the recent European election for the south east region. Anna Firth, who is a barrister and a councillor for Sevenoaks, is the third candidate.

Nigel Farage has dropped several hints that he is eyeing up Thanet South as a seat to contest but the possible selection of a former UKIP colleague raises the possibility that he could look elsewhere.

The Conservatives are selecting a new candidate after the current MP Laura Sandys said she would not be standing in 2015 for personal reasons.

UKIP has built up a solid base in Thanet and took seven of the eight county council seats in 2013.

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