Published: 10:55, 05 October 2017
The new leader of UKIP Henry Bolton says he is likely to contest the next general election as a candidate in Kent - with speculation that he has his sights on Folkestone and Hythe.
Mr Bolton has vowed to restore the party as a political force in Kent after suffering a series of election setbacks in what it has previously regarded as a stronghold.
Asked if he intended to stand in Kent at the next election, he hinted that while it was too early to say, it was likely.
“Kent is my home, I work in Kent and I know Kent and I would not stray away from Kent. So, it would be surprising if I did not stand and it would be odd for a leader not to.”
He was not a candidate in the general election earlier this year and the party polled poorly in Kent - with Folkestone and Hythe seeing an 18% fall in Ukip's share of the vote.
If he chose to stand in the seat, he would be up against Conservative incumbent Damian Collins, who was among MPs who strongly supported remaining in the EU.
Mr Bolton has an uphill battle to reverse the party’s fortunes in Kent and elsewhere.
It lost every one of the 17 seats it had on the county council and a series of council by-elections in Thanet has seen the party lose outright control of the only authority it runs in the country.
It also performed poorly in the snap election in June, losing ground to Labour across all Kent’s constituencies.
The 54-year-old former soldier and police officer pulled off a shock victory in the leadership contest, defeating six rival candidates in a ballot triggered by the resignation of Paul Nuttall in June.
But he emphasised that his more immediate challenge was to pull the party back into shape after a period of uncertainty and instability.
“It is too early to say and my mind is on the more immediate challenges of bringing stability to the party.”
He said since the result there had already been a resurgence of support and activists renewing their membership.
“Ukip has really been silent and done nothing or said nothing because everything has been put on hold. Since the result, a lot of people have come back to the party.”
“The country needs a strong pro-Brexit voice and the EU does not come to an end in 2019. We want to be able to control our borders and to negotiate trade deals and take responsibility for that.”
He also signalled that he would continue to back Manston in Thanet returning as an airport, despite the council’s UKIP administration saying it was not commercially viable.
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