As expected, Ukip has announced that Roger Helmer will be the party’s candidate for the upcoming Newark by-election on 5 June. The 70-year-old MEP is a former Conservative who defected to Ukip two years ago, citing an ‘increasing disillusion with the attitudes of the Conservative Party’. Farage said of Helmer’s selection this afternoon:
‘He is a massively experienced and respected figure on the national political stage and on the local political stage as well. I know that the UKIP membership will rally to the cause of making Roger our first directly elected MP.’
Helmer is a colourful character, whose past remarks will be undoubtedly dug up by his opponents in Newark. Just last week, he was featured in the Sun for arguing that some people find homosexuality ‘distasteful if not viscerally repugnant’. In the past, Helmer has been in the soup for his remarks on rape, speeding on motorways, the Church of England and the NHS.
One of his pet hates are wind turbines, which will be a strong topic for Helmer in this by-election as 13 wind turbines are planned for an ex-RAF field in the area. Helmer has already been reselected to stand for as an MEP for the East Midlands, so the campaign in Newark will distract from that somewhat.
It appears Newark will now be a battle between the traditional conservative Helmer and the modern Tory Robert Jenrick. Despite the choice of a high profile candidate with strong views, it’s still unlikely Ukip will take the seat.