U.K. Lawmaker Mercer Quits, Giving Election Chance to UKIP

Patrick Mercer, a U.K. Member of Parliament who quit the Conservative Party last year after being caught in a journalistic sting, said he’ll resign his seat in Parliament, triggering a by-election where the U.K. Independence Party may challenge the Tories.

Mercer announced his decision outside Parliament late today after the BBC reported he was to be suspended for six months. Last year he was filmed by undercover reporters offering to lobby in return for money.

“I’m going to resign my seat in God’s county of Nottinghamshire. I’m hoping that my successor will be the Conservative candidate,” Mercer told reporters. “I’m hoping that the people of Newark will be able to tolerate me in the future.”

His departure means a vote to replace him in his district of Newark in central England. On paper, it’s a safe Tory seat -- Mercer took 54 percent of the vote there in 2010, with Labour in second place on 22 percent. While UKIP won only 4 percent of the vote, they have surged in the polls since then.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes had the Conservatives as favorites to hold the seat, with UKIP in second place.

“It’s exactly the kind of local context and situation UKIP has been looking for in order to advance,” Rob Ford, co-author of Revolt On The Right, a book charting the party’s rise, said in an interview. “On the other hand, it’s a very large Tory majority, and the socio-economic make-up of the seat means it’s not classic UKIP territory. My prediction now would be an alarmingly narrow Conservative win.”

Mercer, a former Army colonel, was elected in 2001. His political career stalled after he gave an interview in 2007 when he used racist language and said people with red hair had a harder time in the Army than black people. David Cameron sacked him from his role as a spokesman.

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