The seven times Farage tried and failed to become an MP

It was a chaotic day for Nigel Farage at his campaign rally on Tuesday - which saw fans arrive to show their support for the new Reform Party leader before a protester covered him in milkshake.

After repeatedly saying that he wouldn’t run - and declaring the US presidential contest was more important than the UK election - Mr Farage will attempt to get a seat in the House of Commons for the eighth time, this time in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex.

The self-styled “man of the people” and anti-establishment campaigner, who argued for the UK to leave the EU for many years and was one of Brexit’s staunchest supporters, has been in and around the political fray now for three decades.

Eastleigh by-election (1994)

Nigel Farage out on the campaign trail in Clacton (Getty Images)
Nigel Farage out on the campaign trail in Clacton (Getty Images)

There will be a significant chunk of this year’s electorate who were not even alive when Mr Farage launched his first tilt at the Commons in 1994, when he contested the Eastleigh (Hampshire) by-election following the death of Conservative MP Stephen Milligan.

Liberal Democrat candidate David Chidgey won that contest, securing 44.3 per cent of the vote, with Labour coming second on 27.6 per cent and the Tories on 24.7 per cent. Mr Farage, standing for UKIP at the time, was among the other candidates who secured 3.4 per cent.

Salisbury general election (1997)

After becoming UKIP party leader in 1996, Mr Farage targeted Salisbury, Wiltshire, at the following year’s general election for his second attempt at becoming an MP.

Early in the campaign, the Salisbury Journal reported, he won the backing from the leader of the Independent group on Salisbury District Council, David Parker, and Daily Mail political commentator Simon Heffer.

With the Tories split over Europe under John Major, Mr Farage sensed an opportunity to make gains in the southern England constituency but the Conservatives managed to hold on, despite Labour’s landslide victory under Tony Blair.

Bexhill and Battle general election (2001)

Next on Mr Farage’s list was the Tory stronghold of Bexhill and Battle in East Sussex, which at the time had the second-highest proportion of pensioners in the UK (over 34 per cent of the electorate).

Gregory Barker won the seat for the Tories.

Although Mr Farage came fourth in the race, he had started to increase his share of the vote compared with some of his earlier efforts, securing 3,474 ballots (7.8 per cent) on a turnout of 64.9 per cent.

South Thanet general election (2005)

In 2005 Mr Farage launched the first of two attempts at winning South Thanet in Kent.

But Labour, which secured a second term in government, gained the seat from the Tories on a swing of 1.5 per cent.

The UKIP leader came in fourth place, winning 2,079 (5 per cent) of the votes on a turnout of 65 per cent.

Bromley and Chislehurst by-election (2006)

Sir Bob Neill, who is standing down, celebrates winning the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election in 2006 (PA Archive)
Sir Bob Neill, who is standing down, celebrates winning the Bromley and Chislehurst by-election in 2006 (PA Archive)

Just a year later Mr Farage tried his luck in Bromley and Chislehurst, south-east London, which no longer exists following boundary changes.

The contest was triggered by the death of former Tory MP Eric Forth, who first won the seat in Labour’s landslide of 1997.

Mr Farage came third, behind the Liberal Democrats in second and Conservative candidate Bob Neill in first.

Rachel Reeves, now Labour’s shadow chancellor, came fourth.

Buckingham general election (2010)

Mr Farage went up against former Commons speaker John Bercow in the seat of Buckingham at the 2010 general election, when David Cameron led the Tories to winning the most seats at Westminster, forming a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Farage won 8,401 votes (21.4 per cent) in what, at that point, was his best performance at UK parliament election.

Mr Bercow won the seat with 22,860 votes (47.3 per cent) for the Conservative Party.

South Thanet general election (2015)

The general election of 2015 saw Mr Farage secure his best result to date - securing 16,026 votes (32.4 per cent).

But it was not enough to secure him a seat in the Commons, with the Tory candidate Craig Mackinlay winning the Kent seat with 18,838 votes (38.1 per cent).


Although Mr Farage has never been elected to the Commons, he served as an MEP (member of the European parliament) for South East England from 1999 until the UK exited the EU in 2020.

He used his platform to attack the bloc and gained notoriety for personal attacks on some of its senior politicians.

In 2010 he launched a viral attack on Herman Van Rompuy, describing him of having “the charisma of a damp rag” and “the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk” two months before the UK general election.