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Conservatives choose Craig Mackinlay to stand in Thanet South where UKIP leader Nigel Farage may also stand

A former member of UKIP has been picked to fight for the Conservatives in Thanet South at the general election.

Craig Mackinlay has been named as the association's candidate in a constituency that will be a key battleground at the 2015 poll and could see UKIP leader Nigel Farage contest the seat.

Mr Mackinlay, a Medway councillor who is a Eurosceptic and on the right of the party, said he was delighted to have been picked.

Craig Mackinlay MP
Craig Mackinlay MP

He has fought two parliamentary elections before - but as a UKIP candidate in Gillingham in 2005 and Totnes in Devon in 2001.

The current Conservative MP Laura Sandys announced last year she intended to stand down for personal reasons.

He rejoined the Conservatives in 2005, having served briefly as leader, vice chairman and treasurer for UKIP.

He was chosen to be the Conservative candidate in the first election for a police commissioner in Kent in 2012 but was defeated by independent candidate Ann Barnes.

Speaking after last night's selection meeting, he said: "I am delighted to be selected and feel elated. The depth of Euroscepticism is very important here [Thanet]."

On the possibility of coming up against UKIP leader Nigel Farage, he said: "I cannot see why he would want to stand here. If he really wants a referendum, fighting me is not the way to do it."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage
UKIP leader Nigel Farage

Since 2006, Mackinlay has served as a magistrate on the North Kent Bench.

UKIP has yet to decide who will contest the seat but recently Nigel Farage said it was a "distinct possibility" he would put his name forward.

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