Bubble Burst: Farage decided risk of failure too high

Farage bottles it: Ukip leader stands down in Newark

Farage bottles it: Ukip leader stands down in Newark

Nigel Farage was accused of "bottling it" today after raising the prospect of standing in and winning the Newark by-election, only to walk away from the fight.

In what could prove to be a major miscalculation, Farage had raised the prospect of "completely [changing] the political landscape" by winning the seat and insisted that his victory would even force David Cameron to resign.

"I know that winning one seat in Westminster will completely change the landscape for us as a party in terms of our prospects," Farage told the BBC yesterday.

"I've got to work out whether it's the right seat for me. And the reservation in my mind is that I haven't particularly got connections within the local area but against that perhaps I'm quite well known. So I've got to weigh it up."

However, he was forced to walk away from the fight this morning as the prospect of overturning the 16,000 majority held by disgraced Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, proved too difficult.

Despite coming second in a number of by-elections, Ukip have yet to breakthrough into Westminster. The party is now under pressure to prove that their high opinion poll ratings can be translated into electoral success.

However, despite raising expectations of his chances, Farage was reportedly worried that a defeat in Newark would lead to his "bubble [being] burst," in the media.

As pressure rose on the Ukip leader to declare his hand, Farage finally stood aside this morning in favour of a local candidate.

"Let's pick a candidate who is local and throw the kitchen sink at it," he told the Today programme adding that he didn't want to be seen as "an opportunist" by standing in the seat.

"There is a much bigger prize than the newark by-election and that is the general election in 2015."

Farage was roundly mocked by Labour and Conservative MPs for "bottling it" in Newark.

MPs variously described Farage as a mouse or a chicken as they struggled to come up with any new animal-based metaphors for cowardice.

"Nigel Farage and the Newark by-election: Man or mouse…? Pass the cheese!!! Squeek squeek…" jeered Tory MP Mark Garnier, feeling supercilious, yet apparently unable to spell the word 'squeak'.

"That faint clucking you can here in the distance is Nigel Farage…chicken!" added Tory Ben Wallace, spelling out the joke for all those unsure what it was.

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott meanwhile showed all the cutting wit he is best known for by simply tweeting a picture of a man in a chicken suit.