Nigel Farage is interviewed in Kelham Hall, home to Newark and Sherwood District Council. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Farage to stand for selection in South Thanet

Ukip leader plans to run in Tory-held constituency where his party currently polls first. 

Nigel Farage has long made it clear that he intends to stand for parliament next year, while so far refusing to say where. But the FT has the news that the Ukip leader is on the candidate selection list for Tory-held South Thanet. Ahead of a hustings meeting on 26 August, the local party secretary tells the paper: "It is the worst-kept secret in town. We now have two names on the list and one of them is Mr Farage. Whether he will get selected or not is another matter . . . although I’d be surprised if he doesn’t."

Farage's choice doesn't come as a surprise. The constituency lies in his native Kent (where he has previously pledged to stand), and a recent Lord Ashcroft poll put Ukip in first place. In the May local elections, the party won seven out of eight seats on the county council, leaving the Tories without a single representative. 

The current MP is the pro-European Laura Sandys (elected in 2010 with a majority of 7,617), who recently announced her decision to stand down at the general election last November. In her place the Tories have selected Craig Mackinlay, a former Ukip leader and deputy leader. 

Farage finished fourth when he stood in the seat in 2005, and only managed third place when he ran in John Bercow's Buckingham constituency in 2010, but he has good reason to believe he can improve on both of those performances this time round. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.