Ukip’s Yorkshire funder Paul Sykes widens party’s target list

UKIP leader Nigel Farage outside his party's election headquarters in Kent
UKIP leader Nigel Farage outside his party's election headquarters in Kent
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UKIP’s Yorkshire paymaster has said the party is moving on from tempting defectors to preparing the widest possible list of target seats after success in Rochester.

Multi-millionaire Ukip tycoon Paul Sykes said the party “has the tiger by the tail” after former Tory MP Mark Reckless won his seat back in a by-election which handed Ukip a constituency previously just 271th on its target list.

Mr Sykes, who has already pledged more than £1.5m to the party for its General Election battle, said he was happy to hand over cash if it meant the party could fight “that Oxbridge lot” in the main political parties.

Ukip would “once again have to revise its election plan”, Mr Sykes said, with two target seats in Yorkshire and Humber likely now to be expanded.

He said: “We have the tiger by the tail here, we can start widening the list, we had 30 odd in mind, then 40, this blows the whole thing open, I don’t have a number in mind, but 65,70, or more now. What is a marginal for us now?”

The bold claim was in marked contrast to the mood among Conservative MPs, with several telling The Yorkshire Post that the 2,900 Ukip majority in Rochester was lower than they were expecting.

Yesterday William Hague instead the Tories were ready for the election fight.

The former Foreign Secretary said: “We’re not going to let UKIP let Ed Miliband sneak into Downing Street by the back door. And that is clearly the danger here.”

He added: “Conservative MPs are very determined to win that general election. I don’t have a crystal ball about what every MP will do, but certainly that is the mood of the Conservative Party at Westminster.”

Mr Sykes £650m fortune has for more than a decade now been used to bankroll Ukip, with his money going on a billboard poster campaign credited with providing the party with its first place victory in this year’s European elections.

His money is also said to fund polling on European and immigration issues carried out in key constituencies and used with sometimes devastating effect when Ukip meets with MPs considering defecting.

Mr Sykes though said the party was preparing to move past the bid for defectors and onto a General Election footing.

He said: “I don’t think we’re getting ready for more defections, although Nigel Farage could surprise us all with another, but it’s closing down now, it’s a bit late for defections, we are heading to the General Election.”

Mr Sykes added: “In Yorkshire we are hopeful to win a few Labour seats.

“Something extraordinary is happening, the Oxbridge lot and the political system in London are waking up to the fact that people not will listen to them any longer.”

His claims were last night treated cautiously by Yorkshire polling expert Colin Mellors, who said the issues voters acted on at a by-election tended not to be the same as those they are asked to consider at a General Election.

Professor Mellors, a York University political scientist, said: “If the local and by-election results were repeated we would have spent a lot of the 20th Century under Liberal Democrat Governments, the task for Ukip is to maintain that support.”