General Election: Why did Nigel Farage choose Clacton in Essex for his latest bid to become an MP?

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Nigel Farage has announced he will stand in Clacton for Reform UK. Credit: ITV News Anglia/PA

The seaside town of Clacton is best known for its pier, sandy beaches and annual airshow - but now Nigel Farage has thrust it into the political spotlight.

Mr Farage announced he would fight the seaside seat for Reform UK at the General Election, at the same time as confirming he will take over as the party's leader.

But he will face a tough challenge, as the constituency is the ninth-safest Conservative seat out of 372 in the country.

Former actor Giles Watling, who starred in the TV show Bread, held Clacton for the Conservatives in 2019 with a majority of 24,702 in an election in which the Brexit Party, led by Mr Farage, stood down candidates to help then-Tory leader Boris Johnson.

Mr Farage's bid to win Clacton for Reform UK will be his eighth attempt to secure a parliamentary seat, with the other seven ending in defeat.

Why did Nigel Farage choose to stand in Clacton?

ITV News Anglia political correspondent Emma Hutchinson believes that winning in Clacton may prove a tall order for Mr Farage.

"Nigel Farage says he wants to make this General election campaign more exciting.

"He’s one of the most recognised politicians in the country and has plenty of fans but it’s never been enough to win a seat in a General Election.

Nigel Farage has tried seven times to gain election as an MP Credit: James Manning/PA

"So why did he think Clacton was the right place for him to stand?

"Clacton is the only constituency to elect a UKIP MP at a General Election - it did so in 2015 when Douglas Carswell held on to the seat after winning it for UKIP in a 2014 by-election.

"It’s a constituency with a high percentage of Leave voters, and one where Nigel Farage was warmly welcomed during that 2014 by-election campaign.

"But winning for Reform UK will be a tall order. It's currently one of the safest Conservative seats in the region, with a majority of nearly 25,000.

"Giles Watling has been the conservative MP there since 2017."After saying he wouldn’t stand 10 days ago Nigel Farage says he wants to make this campaign more exciting and interesting.

"As well as announcing his candidacy for Clacton, he also announced he will be leader of the Reform party, rather than honorary president.

"That will give him a high national profile and the chance in big televised debates this week and next.

"He'll be hoping it’s 8th time lucky in his bid to win a Westminster seat."

The Red Arrows streak across the sky at the Clacton Airshow Credit: ITV News Anglia

Clacton's voting history

It is not the first time Clacton has found itself at the centre of a clash between the Conservative party and its rivals to the right.

The resort was the scene of a UKIP by-election win in 2014, triggered by the then-MP Douglas Carswell’s defection from the Tories.

Clacton had been in a Conservative constituency from 2005 until 2014 but it was part of Labour Harwich between 1997 and 2005.

Mr Carswell won a majority of 12,068 (28.0%) as a Conservative in the 2010 General Election and when he defected to UKIP and forced a by-election in 2014 gained a majority of 12,404 (35.1%). 

The UKIP majority was cut to 3,437 (7.8%) in the 2015 General Election. 

Mr Carswell left UKIP in March 2017 and became an Independent and finally announced he would not seek re-election in the summer 2017 General Election.

The seat was then reclaimed by the Conservatives in 2017 as Mr Carswell stepped down. The party increased its majority through sitting MP Giles Watling in 2019 from 15,828 in 2017. 

Anti-EU feeling had run high in the Tendring area of Essex with support for the Leave vote in 2016 estimated at 71%.

Boundary changes in Clacton ahead of the 2024 vote have not altered the political balance very much, and Labour would need a huge swing of 28.2% to win it.

Douglas Carswell on the campaign trail with Nigel Farage in Clacton before the 2015 general election. Credit: PA Images

Who is standing to be the MP for Clacton?

Nominations have not closed yet but candidates who have declared they will be running in the Clacton seat are as follows:

  • Matthew Bensilum, Lib Dem

  • Nigel Farage, Reform UK

  • Natasha Osben, Green

  • Jovan Owusu-Nepaul, Labour

  • Giles Watling, Conservative

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