NIGEL Farage received a boost ahead of Ukip’s pre-election conference, with a poll suggesting he is on track to become an MP.
Research by Survation for party donor Alan Bown put Mr Farage’s support in South Thanet at 39 per cent, ahead of Labour rival Will Scobie on 28 per cent and Tory Craig Mackinlay on 27 per cent.
It is welcome news for Ukip after a series of surveys suggested its backing nationally had slipped and the party is hoping the two-day gathering at the Winter Gardens in Margate, Kent, can restore its momentum.
Mr Farage and other speakers are expected to seize on net migration figures released on Thursday that showed nearly 298,000 people came into Britain last year – almost treble David Cameron’s target.
Several other speeches, including one from deputy leader Paul Nuttall, are due to focus on the party’s traditional core issue of leaving the EU. Meanwhile, health spokesman Louise Bours will try to assuage concerns about party policies in her domain with a talk called “Ukip Believes In The NHS”.
But there are likely to be questions about the resignation of the chairman of the party’s LGBT group, Tom Booker, citing the “failure of the leadership to set a gay-friendly tone”.
Mr Farage had been in the United States on Thursday to address the right-wing Conservative Political Action Conference, sharing a stage with Tea Party star and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
A previous Survation poll in South Thanet in November 2013 gave Labour the lead by 35 per cent to Ukip’s 30 per cent.
But Mr Farage has since been installed as the candidate.
The findings of the latest poll are more encouraging for the Ukip leader than research for Tory peer Lord Ashcroft last November, which suggested the Conservatives were on track to retain the seat. The current MP, Laura Sandys, is stepping down in May.
Ukip has reportedly requested police bodyguards for Mr Farage amid concerns he is being targeted by protesters and there is speculation demonstrations could be mounted at the Winter Gardens.
Douglas Carswell, one of two Tory defectors who won parliamentary by-elections for Ukip last year, is due to speak at the conference today.
He has dismissed suggestions of tensions with Mr Farage over immigration. The other defector, Mark Reckless MP, is also due to speak at the conference.
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