UKIP leader Paul Nuttall has insisted he will be a candidate in the General Election after accusations that he was running scared.
As the leader of the party I will be, obviously, leading the party into battle as I have done many times in the past, he said in a radio interview.
Mr Nuttall said he would reveal which constituency he will fight in the next 48 hours, but it is thought he may run in Hartlepool, where UKIP was only 3,000 votes behind Labour in 2015.
This week Mr Nuttall’s election plans have veered from soap opera to farce as he was forced to barricade himself in a hotel room as he attempted to dodge questions from journalists.
Mr Nuttall, an MEP since 2009 who succeeded Nigel Farage as UKIP leader after a shambolic period of leadership changes following the EU referendum, has stood for Parliament unsuccessfully five times.
He stood in Bootle, where he grew up, in the 2005, 2010 and 2015 general elections and in by-elections in Oldham East and Saddleworth in 2011 and Stoke-on-Trent Central in February this year.
The Stoke by-election was a particularly bruising contest for Mr Nuttall, who was dogged by accusations that he lied about being at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and about claims in his CV.
While he could have another crack at Stoke, Hartlepool looks a much better prospect, especially as popular local Labour MP Iain Wright, who chairs the Business Select Committee, is standing down.
Hartlepool is one of UKIP’s top target seats, polling 11,052 votes there in 2015, narrowly behind Labour’s 14,076, with the Conservatives trailing in third place on 8,256.
Other possibilities are Boston and Skegness, where UKIP was 4,000 behind the Tories in 2015, or Thurrock, a tight three-way marginal in Essex in the Thames area.
Or he could fight South Thanet, the seat contested by his predecessor Mr Farage in 2015, now the subject of police and Crown Prosecution Service inquiries into allegations of electoral fraud against the Tories.
In his radio interview with Iain Dale on LBC, Mr Nuttall denied accusations from political opponents that he was wavering about whether or not to stand in the General Election.
I wasn’t really unsure, he said. I just had to take a decision as to what the party really needed me to do.
I saw what happened with Nigel Farage in 2015, where he spent the majority of his time down in Thanet, and I basically had to take the decision as to whether the party needed me roaming the country and geeing up the branches and appearing on the media.
It’s quite difficult to do both when you’re the leader of UKIP. We don’t have a safe seat.