Nigel Farage has told Paul Nuttall it is crucial to the future of Ukip that he wins the Stoke by-election next week.
“I don’t think anybody for one moment can underplay just how important, just how fundamental, that by election is for the futures of both the Labour Party and indeed of Ukip too - it matters and it matters hugely,” Farage told the Ukip Spring conference today.
Nuttall’s campaign to be elected MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central risked being derailed this week after he was forced to admit claims made on his website in his name that he lost “close personal friends” in the Hillsborough tragedy were not true.
Farage’s comments will add to the pressure on his successor as party leader to win on Thursday.
In his speech, Farage said “fighting by-elections is not much fun, it’s a rough old game” but predicted Nuttall was “going to win”.
Nuttall is battling Labour candidate Gavin Snell to represent the constituency vacated by former shadow cabinet minister Tristram Hunt.
Farage told Ukip activists: “Please physically do everything you can to help get Paul Nuttall elected as MP for Stoke Central.”
The former Ukip leader, who has made much of his links to Donald Trump, also warned the party not to move to the centre ground as some figures want.
“We must not change our policy. We must be seen to be those that fight against political correctness,” he said.
“Just look at what Trump did in the midwest of America to pick up Democrat voters and non voters, he didn’t do it by tacking to the left, he did it by being clear.”
He added: “You wont pick up millions of Labour votes unless you have a clear strong and true message.”