UKIP has confirmed Roger Arthur will contest the constituency of Horsham in the 2015 general election.
The former Conservative deputy leader of Horsham District Council who revealed his intention to challenge Francis Maude’s seat in the County Times at the beginning of August, has been confirmed as the party’s prospective parliamentary candidate.
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In August, the 70 year old from Storrington revealed he punched the air with joy when he was informed of his likely selection, however, it only became official following a UKIP hustings meeting on Saturday (October, 5 2013).
Speaking to his fellow branch members, Mr Arthur insisted that Francis Maude could be defeated and that UKIP could prevail.
Mr Maude has damaged his credibility, said Mr Arthur, because despite now claiming to be a euro-sceptic, it was also he who ‘signed away our freedom and independence at Maastricht’, in 1992.
Mr Arthur, who also claimed Mr Maude was a ‘minister in a discredited, incompetent and muddleheaded government that lacked any vision or sense of direction’, was elected as UKIP’s candidate, by an overwhelming majority.
However, the UKIP hopeful will need a far greater majority in May 2015 from the general public if he is to unseat Mr Maude who has a majority in excess of 11,000, winning 52 per cent of the vote in 2011.
When the County Times first revealed Mr Arthur’s intent to oust Francis Maude, the Horsham MP said: “I will do my utmost to retain Horsham for the Conservatives.
“This Government is reforming welfare and driving up standards in schools.
“We have cut migration by a third, reduced crime and committed to holding a referendum on our membership of the European Union.”
However, Mr Arthur told his UKIP colleagues on Saturday that Mr Maude ‘cannot escape his share of blame for [the Government’s] shortcomings that are depressing the standard of living of most people in this country and reducing those living on fixed incomes to penury’.
He accused both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Government, in which Mr Maude serves as Minister for the Cabinet Office and Pay Master General, of ‘of allowing the Planning Inspectorate to ride roughshod over our own local government representatives and without any sort of mandate, replacing green fields with brick and concrete, to the delight of developers’.
Back in August, Mr Arthur also said he was keeping much of his powder dry in order to run a more successful campaign against the Tories in the run-up to the 2015 election, but the gloves were off on Saturday when, speaking of Mr Maude, he said he believed ‘people should not trust a politician whose response to a major fuel crisis was to urge the populace to fill jerry-cans with petrol’.
Meanwhile, in the past two weeks, the incumbent chair of Horsham District Council, Philip Circus (Con, Chactonbury) beat off competition from UKIP to retain the county council seat of Storrington for the Conservatives, leading him to claim ‘UKIP’s bubble has burst’.
Mr Circus took 1,037 votes compared to 729 that went to UKIP, with the Liberal Democrat candidate achieving 364, from a turn out of 25.53 per cent.
The new county councillor said UKIP’s recent conference had made them ‘look like buffoons’, while the UKIP candidate John Wallace countered by saying he believes Mr Circus is ‘living in cloud-cuckoo-land’.
What do you think? Has UKIP’s bubble burst, are they ‘buffoons’, or is the real electoral contest against a ‘discredited Government’ just beginning with Mr Arthur’s bid to unseat Francis Maude in 2015?
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