Ukip signals growing South Yorkshire confidence

THE UK Independence Party has changed its candidate for Wentworth and Dearne in a sign of its growing confidence it can mount a serious challenge to Labour for the seat at the coming General Election.

Ukip MEP Mike Hookem who is standing in Wentworth and Dearne

Rotherham Ukip councillor Martyn Parker has been replaced by Mike Hookem, one of the party’s two MEPs in Yorkshire.

Ukip has already enjoyed success in Rotherham having secured 10 seats on the council last May, enough to make it the biggest opposition group on the authority.

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The Rotherham seat is one of its top targets where it is fielding MEP Jane Collins against sitting Labour MP Sarah Champion.

The decision to choose another of its heavyweights to contest the neighbouring South Yorkshire seat of Wentworth and Dearne, held by Labour’s John Healey, suggests it now has hopes of broader success in the area.

A UKIP spokesman said: “Coun Martyn Parker has stood down from the campaign, due to a re-evaluation of the seat. This decision is in no way a reflection on Martyn, who is still a valued councillor and member of the party.”

Mr Healey, a former Minister, held Wentworth and Dearne with a majority of 13,920 in 2010.

Mr Hookem said: “I’m honoured to have the opportunity to fight the Wentworth & Dearne seat on behalf of UKIP. From speaking to local residents, the people of the area are crying out for change and I believe UKIP offer the only realistic alternative to Labour for many voters.

“I am under no illusion that it will be a hard fight to break the Labour stranglehold on this constituency, but I don’t shrink from a challenge, and I look forward to leading the way in tackling the many issues that affect voters in the area.”

Ukip has campaigned heavily on the child abuse scandal that has hit Labour-run Rotherham Council.

The three Labour MPs covering the Rotherham area are currently taking legal action against Ms Collins and Coun Caven Vines, Ukip group leader on Rotherham Council, over comments they have made in relation to the scandal.