This election could see the end of the UKIP leaderby Katharine Quarmby / May 2, 2017 / Leave a comment
Can Paul Nuttall, the UKIP leader, win the seat of Boston and Skegness from the Conservatives? Bafflingly, Nuttall announced he was standing during a visit to Hartlepool, about 160 miles away from the constituency. His rally was interrupted by a street fight that may or may not have had its basis in Brexit, depending on which paper you read.
On the face of it, Nuttall should stand a chance. The Lincolnshire town of Boston voted 75.6 per cent in favour of leaving the European Union, the highest proportion in the country. Its incumbent MP, Matt Warman, campaigned in favour of Remain and has defended the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and therefore could be vulnerable. His majority in the last general election was 10 per cent above that of second-placed UKIP, but UKIP’s share of the vote climbed over 24 percentage points between 2010 and 2015.
According to the last census, Boston’s population increased by 15.9 per cent between 2000 and 2011, a rate double the national average. The town is home to the highest proportion of European immigrants of anywhere in England and Wales (mostly from Eastern Europe, and including many Roma). The unemployment rate is still relatively low, with most migrants employed in agriculture. But there is well-reported resentment about the rate of change, with some residents complaining about the effects on public services.
UKIP is upbeat at its prospects, with Nuttall vowing “make it my mission to stand up for the people of Boston and Skegness.” Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent and co-author of Revolt on the Right, says of Nuttall: “He will throw everything into the election campaign and is clearly aware of the need to deliver a strong UKIP vote. If he fails then UKIP will be written off in the shade of the general election.”
However, Nuttall’s political record is patchy. As an MEP for North West England, he has one of the worst attendance records—rivalled only by Nigel Farage (from whom he took over as UKIP leader in November) and a disabled Irish MEP, who is unable to travel. The European Parliament is investigating Nuttall, Farage and six other UKIP MEPs for alleged misuse of funds. In February, his attempt to win…