Immigration row hits Ukip in Rochester

Ukip leader Nigel Farage (left) walks around Rochester in Kent with Mark Reckless
Ukip leader Nigel Farage (left) walks around Rochester in Kent with Mark Reckless
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VOTER go to the polls in Rochester tomorrow as a new immigration row hits Ukip.

Polling stations open in Rochester and Strood amid an ongoing row over claims the leading candidate suggested immigrants may be repatriated.

Ukip candidate Mark Reckless has denied suggesting that migrants who have settled in Britain should be helped to leave - insisting the Tories are the ones guilty of “BNP-lite” campaigning.

The Tory defector, expected to reclaim his seat in the by-election, was asked in an ITV hustings what he thought should happen to a Polish plumber who lived in the area and whose children went to school there.

He responded that such individuals could be given work permits for a “fixed period”.

“I think in the near term we’d have to have a transitional period, we should probably allow people who are currently here to have a work permit at least for a fixed period,” he said.

“People who have been here a long time and integrated in that way, I think we’d want to look sympathetically at.”

After Mr Reckless was cut short by jeering, Labour candidate Naushabah Khan said: “Where would you stop, Mark? My family are migrants, are we going to say they need to go back as well?”

Conservative MP Damian Green said Mr Reckless had come “dangerously close” to advocating a repatriation policy, while shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said he had “let the mask slip”.

But Mr Reckless told BBC Kent his words had been “twisted”.

Opinion polls have repeatedly put Ukip on course for a comfortable victory when votes are counted on Thursday night, which would secure the party its second MP in the space of six weeks.

For Prime Minister David Cameron, a Ukip success would be a devastating blow just months away from the General Election, with the Tories having initially made robust campaign efforts to keep the seat.

It is thought some Tory MPs have privately carried out EU-focused polling research in their constituencies as they test the mood ahead of the by-election result.