LONDON Paul Nuttall, who succeeded Nigel Farage in November as leader of Britain’s anti-EU UKIP party, said on Saturday he would stand for parliament in an election next month shaping up to be a big test for the main opposition Labour party.
Nuttall will be a candidate in the Midlands constituency of Stoke on Trent Central which recorded one of the highest “Leave” votes recorded in last June’s EU membership referendum.
The election will shed light on the depth of electoral support for UKIP, which despite its influence still only holds one of the 650 seats in Britain’s ruling lower house.
It is also expected to be a test for Labour’s embattled leader Jeremy Corbyn, re-elected in September after a challenge from one of his lawmakers that exposed sharp divisions between the party’s elected representatives and grassroots supporters.
Stoke Central has been held by Labour since its creation in 1950 but its majority has been falling fast since a general election in 1997 and Nuttall has vowed to target Labour voters in the Feb. 23 election.
UKIP came second in the seat in the 2015 general election.
The outgoing Labour lawmaker Tristram Hunt, a vocal critic of Corbyn who quit earlier this month saying he was frustrated with Labour’s inability tackle poverty and inequality, had a majority of around 5,500.
The vote is being held on the same day as a by-election in the northern seat of Copeland, triggered by the resignation of another Labour lawmaker, Jamie Reed, who had a 2015 majority of just 2,500 over the ruling Conservatives.
(Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Alexander Smith)