UKIP choose councillor as General Election candidate against Conservative MP Philip Hollobone

Cllr Jonathan Bullock, UKIP's candidate in Kettering
Cllr Jonathan Bullock, UKIP's candidate in Kettering

UKIP have chosen a local councillor as their candidate to fight the general election in Kettering.

Jonathan Bullock, who was also one of the party’s European election candidates, has been selected by party members.

Cllr Bullock, who sits on Kettering council, says he is “delighted and honoured” to have been chosen.

He insists that the party – which did not field a candidate against Conservative MP Philip Hollobone at the last election in 2010 – was fighting to win the seat, having won most votes in the Euro election in Kettering.

Cllr Bullock said: “We won Kettering outright in the European elections and beat the Labour party in the 2013 county council elections.

“It is clear UKIP has tremendous support here in Kettering and we will be fighting to win. I call on all those who feel let down by Cameron and those who feel Labour have betrayed ordinary people to join with us and help elect a UKIP MP to represent this proud area.”

He said the other parties had been “obsessed” with house-building projects to try and solve population growth caused by uncontrolled immigration, while blaming Conservative-run Kettering Borough Council for “kowtowing” to housing developers while abolishing funding support for parish councils.

The announcement that UKIP will field a candidate will put an end to speculation that sitting MP Philip Hollobone would defect to the party – something he has always denied.

Cllr Bullock has previously admitted trying to persuade Mr Hollobone to switch, saying his views reflected those of UKIP rather than the Tories.

In 2010, UKIP’s then-leader Lord Pearson even actively campaigned for Conservative votes in Kettering.

And Mr Hollobone has warned that UKIP standing would increase the chance of splitting the vote and allow Labour to retake a seat they held until 2005.

He told the Northants Telegraph: “When the then national leader of UKIP, Lord Pearson, came to Kettering himself during the last General Election, he said, ‘UKIP would be potty if we kept Philip out of the House of Commons’.

“Potential 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.

“I am confident I have done my very best for constituents in Parliament over the last 10 years and I am keen to take that message to local people and seek their endorsement for another five-year term.”

But Cllr Bullock, who himself defected from the Tories in 2012, said Labour would be squeezed and UKIP were the main challengers to Mr Hollobone.

He added: “Our own canvassing has shown us ahead of Labour – and Labour are quite clearly not targeting the seat.

“It will be a UKIP versus the Tories fight and I’m the candidate who fully backs their party’s stance on issues. Cameron will use any Tory votes in Kettering to justify his stance on open-door immigration, overseas aid expenditure and HS2.

“The same argument was raised when I fought Jim Harker in the county council elections for the Ise division. I was told that this would split the vote and Labour, who were second last time, would win. In fact Labour were squeezed and it turned into a neck-and-neck UKIP versus the Tories battle.”

In that contest, in May 2013, Mr Bullock finished just 174 votes behind Cllr Harker, the leader of Northamptonshire County Council. Labour came third with 21 per cent of the vote.

But Labour says it has noticed strong support for their candidate Rhea Keehn.

She said: “Mr Hollobone has publicly said without him having UKIP support that Labour are more likely to win in Kettering and he is right. There is strong support for Labour in the town as people want an effective MP that gets the job done.

“They are fed up after five wasted years of economic misery and unfairness under this Tory-led Government and there is a real determination to throw them out before they can do further damage to our NHS, our schools and working families.”

Cllr Bullock has previously called fellow borough councillor Mr Hollobone a “decent, hard-working, traditional MP”, but added: “There are hard-working MPs in all parties but we are hard-working too and people deserve a choice between parties. We will have a completely different manifesto to the Conservatives and our manifesto will be better for Kettering.”

No other parties have yet put forward candidates for the May 7 poll.