Neil Hamilton has joined the race to become Boston’s MP – and says he is ready to ‘fight like a tiger’ to win the seat for UKIP.
The party’s deputy chairman has applied to be selected as UKIP’s General Election candidate for Boston and Skegness.
The famous figure now needs to win the support of party members who will make their choice after a hustings event on September 11.
He visited the constituency with wife Christine last month and vowed he wants to carry on the Eurosceptic tradition of former MP Richard Body.
He said: “Dick Body was a great friend of mine. We were very close when I was an MP - I want to follow in the tradition that he set. We were on the same side about Europe.
“Boston and Skegness is one of the most Eurosceptic areas in the country. I think we would be a very good marriage.”
Fellow UKIP applicant Paul Wooding said he is looking forward to taking on the former Tory minister at the hustings – and feels Mr Hamilton’s past may be a problem.
Mr Hamilton lost his seat in Tatton to campaigner Martin Bell in 1997 amid the ‘cash for questions’ affair.
Mr Wooding told The Standard: “If you look at the comments from the public not many people have short memories - they still remember 1997.”
However Mr Hamilton is confident he can overcome personal attacks – saying he has been ‘exhonerated’ over his finances and feels the main parties have little to be proud of as a result of the expenses scandal.
He said: “I shall be talking about policies not personalities. Let’s have the moral high ground. If the Conservatives in particular want to start trying to make political capital out of that kind of allegation then they will have a lot of mud on them.”
He stressed that he does not see the party as a ‘refuge for battered Tories’, saying he hopes to reach out to working class voters from both sides of the political specturm, adding: “It’s very far from a safe seat. I shall be treating it as a marginal if I become the candidate.”
Boston is expected to be among a list of key UKIP target seats for next May’s election – with the party set to focus resources on trying to win the seat.
Mr Hamilton said: “We will be fighting like tigers to win Boston and Skegness and I would give it my all.”
Mr Wooding, however, is confident he can win over party members. He feels Mr Hamilton’s presence will increase interest in the party’s hustings and is putting transport at the heart of his pitch to win members over.
He has estimated a bypass for Boston would cost £250 million – and would hope to claw Government cash to the project as well as sponsorship from food manufacturing and agricultural firms who would benefit.
The Royal Mail driver has family in Skegness and would move from his current base in Maidstone if selected. He said: “I am an honest, honourable guy. I am in it for the people.”