Ukip leader Nigel Farage faces threat from comedian

Al Murray, aka the Pub Landlord, aims to give Ukip leader a run for his money in UK election

Election hopeful: Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, who intends to stand in the general election. Photograph: Press Association

Election hopeful: Al Murray, the Pub Landlord, who intends to stand in the general election. Photograph: Press Association

 

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, has built his political career on the back of an image of being an ordinary man who is happiest propping up a bar-counter, pint and cigarette in hand.

Now, however, his ambition to become a House of Commons MP is facing a challenge from comedian Al Murray, who has built his career on the back of an image of being a pint-guzzling, mock-xenophobic pub landlord.

Murray yesterday announced that he will run as a candidate for the newly-formed Free United Kingdom Party in the Kent constituency of South Thanet against Farage in the May 7th general election.

“It seems to me that the UK is ready for a bloke waving a pint around, offering common sense solutions,” Murray said yesterday in a four-minute party political broadcast circulated on YouTube.

Solar system

“In the meantime Greece [is] to be bought and operated by Kent County Council. Couldn’t be worse. Someone to do the bins at least,” says Murray, the son of a British Army “half-colonel” – the kind of people who formed Ukip’s earliest support base, in Farage’s own words.

Currently, the seat is held by the Conservatives’ Laura Sandys, who is retiring. Though historically it has been a strong territory for the Conservatives, it fell twice to Labour during Tony Blair’s first two elections in 1997 and 2005.

Farage’s hopes of winning the seat have taken a surprising knock in recent opinion polls, including one by Lord Michael Ashcroft, which found that he is trailing the Conservatives’ candidate by five points.

His support is expected to rise as the campaign edges closer. However, Farage has been criticised for not spending enough time in the constituency – one that includes the struggling seaside town of Margate, along with the more leafy Broadstairs.

So far, it is not certain if Murray will stay in the race, but he could drain support from Farage if he does – particularly if the comedian, who graduated with an MA in Modern History from Oxford, campaigns strongly locally during the weeks of the campaign.

Last night, the soon-to-retire Laura Sandys poked fun at Farage: “Now there’s a comedian on the scene, perhaps Nigel will leave the comedy to the professional – I would only pay to see one of them.”

Murray’s campaign targets Ukip at every turn. The logo of the Free UK Party (FUKP), for example, is an upturned £ sign – the opposite of Farage’s party’s symbol, while its stand on immigration is ridiculed.

“Of course the reason [immigrants] are coming here is because this is the greatest country in the world. The only way to stop them is for a government to change that and make things a whole lot worse. Look no further.

“However, in the meantime, we brick up the Channel Tunnel. With British bricks. Probably have to get some Poles in to do it. Common sense,” says Murray, who promises pints for one penny and fixed-price crisps.

For now, Farage is staying calm in the face of the challenge from Murray.