UKIP leader defiant amid Hillsborough claims

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has repeatedly refused to rule out stepping down if he does not win the parliamentary by-election in Stoke-on-Trent on Thursday.

The 40-year-old has been under increased pressure after it emerged last week that claims published on his website that he had close personal friends who died in the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989 were untrue.

Mr Nuttall said he did not think the furore was making a difference in the by-election and refused to be drawn on his future after the ballot.

He told Sky News: “I don’t think it will be an issue, I think we’re going to win.

“I didn’t have to put my head above the parapet for this election but I said when I was made leader, I would lead from the front and that’s precisely what I’m doing.”

When asked for a third time if this meant he could guarantee he would stay on regardless he replied: “Look it’s a long term project.”

He added: “The one thing which was coming back yesterday when I was knocking on doors is people saying ‘keep your chin up lad, we can all see what’s happening to you’.

“It’s quite obviously been a political co-ordinated campaign and people can see through it and I don’t think it’s resonating at all.”

UKIP's new leader, Paul Nuttall
Image Caption: Paul Nuttall is hoping to win the Stoke-on-Trent Central seat

Mr Nuttall’s campaign received a fresh blow on Monday when two UKIP local chairmen resigned in the north-west over the Hillsborough claims.

They issued a statement which said that certain people in senior positions within the party were “not fit to lead”.

When asked if he thought this referred to him, Mr Nuttall responded: “I’m always sad when people leave UKIP, I don’t know what kind of pressures they’ve been under in Liverpool.

“I haven’t had a chance to speak to them today, but I will do in the near future and I’ll find out exactly what’s going on.

“But I want to make it perfectly clear – it’s not as if I have sent anyone into an illegal war, it’s not as if I’ve made racial comments, it’s not as if I’ve taken money from the public purse illegally, I just failed to check a statement that was put up by somebody else on my website.”

The candidates in the Stoke-on-Trent Central by-election on 23 February are:

:: Mohammed Yaqub Akram – Independent
:: Zulfiqar Ali – Liberal Democrats
:: Jack Brereton – Conservatives
:: The Incredible Flying Brick – Official Monster Raving Loony Party
:: Adam Colclough – Green Party
:: Godfrey Davies – Christian Peoples Alliance
:: Barbara Fielding – Independent
:: David Furness – British National Party
:: Paul Nuttall – UKIP
:: Gareth Snell – Labour


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