Ukip eyes local election gains despite candidate concerns

NIGEL Farage’s Ukip faces its biggest test yet on Thursday, as local elections across England test whether it can turn surging poll support into real votes.

Major parties yesterday turned their fire on their upstart rival, which has branched out from its Eurosceptic roots and is courting disillusioned voters from across the political spectrum. It is on track to take as many as 50 council seats.

Conservative minister Ken Clarke told Sky News that he recognised David Cameron’s 2006 description of some Ukip voters as “fruitcakes and closet racists” who were backing “a collection of clowns”.

“[Ukip] doesn’t have any very positive policies, they don’t know what they’re for,” he told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme.

Nigel Farage immediately hit back, saying Clarke was a member of a “bloated self-satisfied political machine” who held the public in contempt.

Ukip is standing a record 1,732 candidates across the country, although the party has admitted it has not been able to vet all their backgrounds. Several have had to stand down following allegations of racism and anti-Semitism.