UKIP say they have delayed selecting a candidate for the general election in Kettering as they continue a bid to tempt the sitting MP to change sides.
The Eurosceptic party hopes Conservative MP Philip Hollobone can be persuaded to follow colleague Douglas Carswell in making the switch.
UKIP gave its backing to Mr Hollobone and Mr Carswell at the last election in 2010, and although the party originally said it hoped to start the candidate selection process following May’s European elections, it now says it will wait until the New Year to give Mr Hollobone more time to defect.
Outgoing local party chairman Cllr Jonathan Bullock said: “The ball is very much in Philip’s court.
“The options are there for him. His views are exactly those of UKIP, they are not those of David Cameron.
“He got elected on a joint manifesto, now we are asking him to make the final move.
“It’s not a political journey in terms of philosophy – he’s absolutely on side [with us].”
Cllr Bullock said he was hopeful he could persuade Mr Hollobone but, should those overtures not be successful, said: “UKIP’s intention is to select candidates for all seats.”
Mr Hollobone has again reiterated his hope a similar deal to 2010 can be struck with UKIP, pointing out that in 2010 its leader said the party would be “potty if we kept Philip out of the House of Commons”.
Mr Hollobone also said: “I am not defecting to UKIP.
“UKIP voters in Kettering know that they already have an MP who has voted in Parliament for an EU referendum, who has spoken out against mass immigration, and who has almost single-handedly campaigned against the wearing of the burkha.
“It is in seats such as Kettering that the next election will be decided and it would be a tragedy if by putting up a candidate, UKIP allowed Kettering to fall into Labour’s hands again and leave us with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister in May, and therefore with no referendum on Europe.”
Meanwhile, UKIP has chosen a GP to be its candidate in Wellingborough. Dr Jonathan Munday, a former Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, will take on sitting MP Peter Bone – but says he will stand down if Mr Bone joined UKIP this week.
Dr Munday said: “This is a last chance for Peter Bone to have the courage of his convictions and join Douglas Carswell and me in UKIP.
“I will give him 48 hours from Thursday to take my job from me or it will be my duty and my privilege, on behalf of the voters of Wellingborough, to take his seat from him.”