LONDON — Suzanne Evans from UKIP believes that the way Paul Nuttall has handled his false Hillsborough claims will have a positive impact on his bid to win the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election.
Evans, who ran to be UKIP leader in the last leadership election, told Business Insider on Friday that Nuttall was “honest” in how he handled the revelations, adding that the people of Stoke will see his handling of the claim as a “good thing.”
Asked whether the false claim that Nuttall lost personal friends in the Hillsborough disaster would impact his chances of winning the by-election next week, the party’s Health Spokesperson Evans said:
“No. I don’t.”
“People like politicians who don’t try to pull wool over their eyes and are straight with them and tell the truth. When Paul realised there was a mistake on his website, instead of trying to cover it up or spin it he said ‘that’s not right I’ve made a mistake’. I think people recognise that it was a good thing.”
Nuttall was the favourite to dethrone Labour and win the Staffordshire seat on Thursday until he was forced to admit earlier this week that the claim published on his website was inaccurate. His chances have since plummeted, according to bookmakers, with Labour’s Gareth Snell now odds-on to win the seat that has been Labour-held since the 1950s.
Evans insisted that UKIP is still leading the race to win in Stoke, despite the damage done to Nuttall’s campaign and reputation.
“I’ve been out a few times in Stoke and I’ve been quite shocked by the apathy. People are very fed up with politics in general,” she said.
“We know that there was a very low turnout at the general election but the doors I’ve knocked on where we’ve had a response have pretty much been pretty much split between us and Labour but with us just ahead.”
Nuttall admitted on Friday that he had endured a “difficult week” but the same can be said for Snell, who has been forced to apologise for a series of misogynistic tweets posted in the past from the account he currently uses for campaigning. “I apologise for the offence they have caused,” he said earlier this week.
Evans told Business Insider that Snell’s apology was not enough and that he should not be allowed to stand in the upcoming by-election. “I just don’t think the man is fit to be an MP,” she said.
“Just look at the Twitter feed and some of the things he has said. How can he stand in the House of Commons and represent women? How can he do his job without ridicule?
“I think it’s typical although unsurprising that in the debate on BBC Radio Stoke last night Paul was really taken to task for being honest while Gareth Snell’s comments were barely mentioned at all. Pretty hypocritical really. He should never have been allowed to get through Labour’s vetting process and I don’t understand how he did.”
Stoke has been dubbed “Brexit capital” of Britain and Labour support there has wavered in recent years. On paper, it is a fantastic opportunity for UKIP to double its presence in the House of Commons, but Evans refuses to accept that failure to win would cast doubt over the party’s future as a viable electoral force.
“I think it inevitably will [raise questions about UKIP’s electability] among the chattering classes in Westminster and the press. Let’s not forget that trying to make a breakthrough in the electoral process we have is always difficult for small parties like UKIP — we are only just into Paul’s leadership. Let’s just wait and see.”
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