Nigel Farage piles pressure on Paul Nuttall to win 'fundamental' Stoke by-election
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has upped the pressure on Paul Nuttall, saying it is "fundamental" that his successor triumphs in next week's Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.
While Ukip were initially confident of beating Labour in what has been dubbed the "Brexit capital" of the UK, their campaign has been beset by problems.
Mr Nuttall is the subject of a police investigation over registering his campaign address at a house he had not yet moved into. Local media then reported he had had to move out of the property due to several attempted burglaries.
He then came under fire after admitting statements on his website that he had lost "close friends" at the Hillsborough disaster were untrue.
Ukip press officer Lynda Roughley took the blame for the mistake, saying she had written the offending articles.
Speaking at the party's spring conference in Bolton this morning, Mr Farage said it was crucial for the party to take the seat, which Labour held with a majority of 5,000 at the 2015 general election.
“I don’t think anybody for one moment can underplay just how important, just how fundamental, that by election is for the futures of both the Labour Party and indeed of Ukip too - it matters and it matters hugely,”
He also urged activists to "physically do everything you can to help get Paul Nuttall elected as MP for Stoke Central”.
Earlier this week Ukip MP Douglas Carswell told PoliticsHome Stoke was the "most professional" campaign the party had ever run, with a record number of activists descending on the Potteries last Saturday.
In his own speech, Mr Nuttall admitted he had had a bad week and once again apologised for claims on his website about Hillsborough.
However, the Ukip leader claimed there had been a concerted effort to "smear" him over the issue.
"It has been a tough week for me but I will not allow them to break me, and I will not allow them to break Ukip," he told activists, who responded by giving Mr Nuttall a standing ovation.
Labour's candidate Gareth Snell has also run into controversy after a series of sexist tweets came to light.
Asked about the tweets by PoliticsHome on Wednesday, Mr Snell said: "I've said some things I shouldn't have said and I've apologised for that and I'll continue apologising.
“If I saw the sort of tweets being sent now that I sent years ago I would call them out for what they are.”
He added: "I can honestly say no one has raised them with me on the doorstep, but whether people care about them or not that's something I shouldn't have done and I should apologise for that."
After the tweets emerged, Ukip, who are hopeful of seizing the seat from Labour after Tristram Hunt quit last month said it was “clear” Mr Snell was unfit to be an MP.