Nigel Farage’s visit to Rotherham reflects the ambitions of a party that knows there are seats to be won at the general election. So which are Ukip’s main targets?
Possibly the more secure Ukip seat in the country. Douglas Carswell survived heavy bombardment from the Tory war machine in last September’s by-election and still won comfortably.
At this election, the Tories hope to cut his 21,113-vote majority in half – but it is no easy task. “Clacton is perfect Ukip territory, with a substantial older working class population,” Professor John Curtice, president of the British Polling Council, told Channel 4 News.
“Carswell was so far ahead at the by-election, and remains one of the most popular faces of the party. This is effectively Ukip-on-Sea.”
The Farage factor alone makes this Ukip’s top target of the 2015 election. Nigel Farage stands in a constituency where his party won 6 per cent of the vote in 2010.
Add that to the fact that Laura Sandys, the Tory incumbent with a majority of 7,617, is stepping down.
“Even with disgruntled Conservatives returning to their core vote in May, Nigel’s presence alone should make this one of at least three near-certain seats for Eurosceptics,” Sir Robert Worcester, the founder of MORI, told Channel 4 News.
There is of course, one potential banana skin: the pub landlord Al Murray, who is set to campaign in opposition.
Sarah Champion, the Labour incumbent, won in a 2012 by-election with a majority of 5,318, on a turnout of just 33 per cent. Ukip came second.
But that was before revelations of the Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal. Now Ukip will campaign aggressively on the back of the two damning reports of institutional failures and more than 15 years of child sexual exploitation that went on under Labour’s watch.
The party is riding on the back of public fury, positioning the scandal as a wider failure of multiculturalism and the last Labour government’s immigration policy. But as today’s abandoned mission confirmed, the situation may be too delicate to play politics with.
Won by Conservative Mark Simmonds in 2001, who held with a convincing majority of 12,426 in 2010. But Mr Simmonds last summer said that he would stand down at the next election “to put family life first”.
Ukip polled at 4,081 in 2010 and registered its highest share of the vote in the country in last year’s European elections.
“It has a strong local branch, an active councillor in Robin Hunter-Clarke (pictured) and sits in Ukip’s Lincolnshire heartland,” Nottingham University Politics Professor Matthew Goodwin told Channel 4 News.
Labour won by a whisker here in 2010, taking the seat with a majority of less than 3 per cent. But their veteran Austin Mitchell has since stood down.
Former Tory candidate Victoria Ayling (pictured) is seen as one of the strongest female prospects of a Ukip gain.
A report on Ukip’s threat to Labour from the Fabian Society, a left-leaning think tank, said the seat was the most likely in the whole of the UK to fall to Ukip, with swathes of disillusionment among working class voters who feel abandoned by Labour.
But the Tories also performed strongly here in 2010.