CASTLE POINT is set to be one of Ukip’s top election targets at next year’s general election following its success in the borough and European elections.
Conservative MP Rebecca Harris will have to fight to keep the seat she won in 2010, as the Eurosceptic party turns its attention to the seat.
After gaining five members of the council last week, the party achieved nearly double the votes of the Conservatives in the European Election poll across Castle Point.
Professor Matthew Goodwin, author of a study on the party called Revolt on the Right, calculated that the Euro result in Castle Point was the party’s fourth best in the country.
It is believed Ukip will target about 20 seats next year.
The success comes one year after topping the popular vote across the borough in the county council elections.
Ukip general election candidate Jamie Huntman, county councillor for Thundersley, is confident their success is not a flash in the pan.
He said: “There’s an earthquake happening now and you can see that. People are saying to me they’re not going to change their minds and they’re going to stick with us at the general election.
“I’ve no doubt the Tory machine will be trying as best it can to hang on to those seats, but we will fight very hard here because there’s a real opportunity.
“If we look at the base we’ve got now, with county councillors, borough councillors, how good the support and the European result is, it looks to me pretty much certain that Castle Point would be a national target seat.
“I can’t speak for central office at the moment, but I think it would have to be.”
Sitting Conservative MP Rebecca Harris said: “We’ll be fighting the next general election as we always intended to – on important things like putting money in people’s pockets and the Conservative party’s longterm economic plan, as well as the plan for a referendum on Europe which so many people, myself included, have been calling for for a long time.
“My focus will be on working my hardest, as ever, for my residents and trying to get a majority Conservative government to give us an in out referendum.”
Professor Goodwin said surveys show about 50 per cent of voters from the European elections will stick with the party.
He added: “There is no doubt Ukip is very strong in Castle Point. The real challenge for them is going to be retaining votes in the area.”
Former Castle Point Tory MP Bob Spink left the party and stood as an independent before losing to Rebecca Harris in the 2010 general election.