Nigel Farage MP? Would Ukip Have Won Eastleigh If He Had Stood?

At the time the Eastleigh by-election was called the chances of a Ukip victory seemed slim. It was a two-horse race between the Lib Dems and the Tories.

However when the result was declared in the early hours of Friday morning it became clear Ukip had come second triggering a crisis for David Cameron and planting a wide grin on Nigel Farage’s face.

But despite being Ukip leader, Farage decided not to stand as the party’s candidate himself. Instead he picked the unknown Diane James. He may have had a smile on his face, but was it hiding regret that he did throw his own hat into the ring; could his celebrity have propelled him to parliament as Ukip’s first elected MP.

Ukip have had one MP in the past. Bob Spink, elected as a Tory for Castle Point in 1992, defected to the eurosceptic party in March 2008. However he lost his seat in 2010 and so was never sent to Westminster by voters on a Ukip ticket, so he doesn’t technically count.

However would Farage have won it had he stood? In advance of today's result Andrew Hawkins, from polling firm ComRes, suggested not. "My suspicion is that the UKIP vote is at its current level in Eastleigh almost irrespective of who their candidate is," he said.

"To be sure, Nigel Farage would be a more recognisable name but over the past 18 months Ukip have gradually as a party replaced the Lib Dems as the most disruptive and challenging force in by-elections."

'Most interesting of all will be the switching between Ukip and the other parties; if the Conservatives lose Eastleigh it will almost certainly be because of Ukip's popularity there. The question is whether the same will be true of the party denying David Cameron a further term as PM after 2015."

James was also quick to shoot down suggestions her boss could have succeeded where she so narrowly failed. Asked by the BBC minutes before the result was called if Farage would have won, she told the BBC:"No i don't think so."

"It was very important we have a very high caliber of candidates coming through and to show this is no longer a one man band." She added: "Nigel is fantastic leader we need him in Europe."

Asked if he thought he could have won, Farage said he agreed with his candidate's assessment. "I agree. I absolutely agree. She was a great candidate, she had my 100% support, she has been an absolute credit."

But with the relatively narrow Lib Dem margin of victory over Ukip, a small part of Nigel Farage MEP must be regretting missing a golden opportunity to have removed that middle ‘E’.