LONDON (Reuters) - Nigel Farage, leader of Britain’s anti-EU party UKIP, took the first step towards seeking a seat in parliament on Friday, putting himself forward for selection by his party to run in a southern constituency controlled by the ruling Conservatives.
Farage, who wants to take Britain out of the European Union, rode a tide of Euroscepticism and discontent about immigration to win European elections in May.
But despite that success and gains in local elections, the UK Independence Party has never managed to win a seat in the House of Commons.
The 50-year-old former commodities trader said he was seeking selection by the party he leads to run for the South Thanet seat on England’s eastern coast.
“I have thrown my hat in the ring, but so have others,” Farage said in an article in the Independent newspaper.
“I stand a good chance of winning,” he added. “I have fought the seat before and it is in my home county of Kent and an area I have represented in the European Parliament since 1999.”
Farage has said UKIP could hold the balance of power if the 2015 national election produces a hung parliament.
Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to give Britons a vote on EU membership by the end of 2017 if re-elected next year, in part because of the dramatic rise of UKIP.
UKIP wants Britain to leave the EU immediately, arguing it will be more democratic and prosperous outside the bloc and better able to stem what it regards as an unsustainable flow of immigrants from EU states such as Romania and Bulgaria.
Cameron’s Conservative party has long been convulsed by a Eurosceptic wing within it. Fights over Europe undermined the last two Conservative prime ministers, John Major and Margaret Thatcher.
Conservative politician Laura Sandys, who won the South Thanet constituency in 2010 with a majority of 7,617 votes, is due to step down as a member of parliament at the next election.
Farage ran for the constituency in the 2005 general election, winning just 2,079 votes.
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison