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Ukip leader Nigel Farage returns to Thanet ahead of crucial Thanet council by-election

The Ukip leader Nigel Farage was in Thanet yesterday to rally support for his party's candidate ahead of a crucial by-election in Newington.

The presence of Mr Farage underlines how important next week's by-election is to the party, which took control of the council last May but has since lost its working majority through defections.

The by-election is being seen as a test of not just Ukip's support but also Labour - which previously held the seat.

The Ballot Box, stock image.
The Ballot Box, stock image.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell will be visiting Thanet on Tuesday for an event arranged by the local branch of Momentum, the group set up to support Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Farage acknowledged that the election could be challenging for his party, particularly given the lack of progress that the council had made in relation to its key election pledge of re-opening Manston as an airport.

He said: "There are people who are disappointed about Manston obviously but I do say that council leader Chris Wells is doing a good job and much of the criticism of him has been grossly unfair.

"So, yes, of course it is an important test but it is a very complicated election with so many candidates and I would defy anyone to make a prediction.

"We do know that the Conservatives are making a big effort in a seat they have never on."

Ukip candidate Duncan Smithson, who lives in Ramsgate, warned that anything but a Ukip win would leave the council in turmoil. He said:

"In May, Newington voted for change. In eight months, UKIP have had some hard decisions to make and have discovered issues left by the previous Labour administration. But we have made progress."

He added:"The stakes are high for this by-election and it is encouraging to see so many people standing.

"There are many admirable candidates standing but a vote for anyone other than Ukip will leave the council in turmoil as no one party will be in control.

"A vote for Labour will cause a Tory lead minority council and lead to years of disruption."

Speaking ahead of his meeting, the shadow Labour chancellor Mr McDonnell said: "Thanet epitomises the enduring poverty and inequality which bedevils large parts of the UK. When Labour regains power we must turn things round.”

The by-election on Thursday was triggered by the resignation of Vince Munday, who is moving to Thailand.

There are seven candidates standing.

They are: Karen Constantine, Labour; Jordan Williams, Liberal Democrat; Grahame Birchall, Independent; Adam Dark, Conservative;Ian Driver, Green Party;Alan Hodder, Independent; Duncan Smithson, UKIP

For more details of the candidates see this week's Thanet Extra.

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