Ukip leader Paul Nuttall confirms he will stand to be an MP at the 2017 General Election

Kate McCann

Paul Nuttall, the Ukip leader, reluctantly agreed to stand as a candidate in the general election after pressure from senior figures in the party, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

The Ukip leader had repeatedly refused to say whether he would fight to be an MP on June 8 ever since the snap poll was called last week. 

But Mr Nuttall announced his intention to stand on Thursday after refusing for days to give a decision. He said he would be “leading the party into battle”.

When asked on LBC whether he had made a decision, he said: “Yes I have, I will be standing in the election and we will be announcing the seat in which I stand in within the next 48 hours.

“As the leader of the party I will be obviously leading the party into battle as I have done on many times in the past.”

But senior sources within the party said Mr Nuttall, who failed to win the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election in February, had serious doubts about trying again.

One source said: "I don't think he wanted to stand but was pretty much told he has to."

It is understood that he is likely to stand in Boston, Lincs, an area that Ukip have long coveted because of local concerns about high immigration.

Mr Nuttall is understood to have told the party he will not fight in Clacton, where the former Ukip MP Douglas Carswell - now an independent - is standing down.

Earlier this week Mr Nuttall was reportedly weighing up whether standing as a Parliamentary candidate would leave him spread too thinly.

Stoke Central by-election results

He said today: “I wasn’t really unsure, I just had to take a decision as to what the party really needed me to do and obviously I saw what happened with Nigel Farage in 2015 where he spent the majority of his time down in Thanet and I basically had to take the decision as to whether the party needed me roaming the country and geeing up the branches and appearing on the media.

“It’s quite difficult to do both when you are the leader of Ukip because unlike Theresa May and Tim Farron and Jeremy Corbyn we don’t have a safe seat.

“They will literally visit their constituencies once or twice, safe in the knowledge that they will be re-elected.

“If we go for it then we pretty much have to live and work in the seat.”

Last night Mr Nuttall denied that he had been reluctant to stand. He told The Telegraph: "No I wasn't reluctant - I just had a lot to weigh up and work out what would be best for the party."

Mr Nuttall will be keen to avoid a repeat of his humiliating defeat in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election in February when he was easily beaten by Labour's Gareth Snell. 

Mr Nuttall launched a series of the party's policies aimed at “integration” at an event in London on Monday.

But the event was dominated by questions about his candidacy as he took refuge in a side room as reporters asked him if he would stand.

Emerging after 10 minutes, and under repeated questioning, Mr Nuttall suggested he might not stand after all.

He said that “Ukip leaders have done pretty well before not being MPs”, in a reference to the party's former leader Nigel Farage who failed seven times to be elected as an MP.

Paul Nuttall, Ukip leader Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Meanwhile Ukip denied reports it was struggling to find enough candidates to fill the seats it wants to fight in the election.

A spokesman for the party said Ukip will be contesting "a good few hundred" seats and denied reports claiming the party may only fight 100 amid a shortage of candidates.

However it has allowed a former candidate, once dropped for organising a controversial "draw Muhammad" competition, to stand again in London.

Anne Marie Waters, ex-deputy leader of the far-right group Pegida, caused a backlash after claiming that Islam is "evil" and that everyone should "insult" the religion. She was dropped by Ukip last year as a candidate for the London Assembly, but is now standing as the party's parliamentary candidate in Lewisham East.

In an election video posted on her Twitter page Ms Waters said: "Whether it is politically correct or not to say it, people are concerned about Muslim immigration.

“They are concerned because Islamic culture does not fit with ours, and it is our culture that is being sacrificed. They are concerned that their children are at risk of rape and sexual abuse.”

Profile | Paul Nuttall

 

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