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Pub Landlord to take on Farage

Comedian Al Murray says he intends to stand for Parliament at the general election in his guise as The Pub Landlord - against UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

The star - whose creation is famed for extolling the joys of all things British - plans to stand in Thanet South, Kent, for his newly-formed Free United Kingdom Party

Explaining his decision to stand, The Pub Landlord said: "It seem to me that the UK is ready for a bloke waving a pint around, offering common sense solutions."

His comment will not be lost on many of those familiar with Mr Farage who is often pictured during impromptu lunchtime photocalls with a drink in his hand in a pub.

Oxford-educated Murray has created an action plan in the guise of his patriotic character, in which he promises: "I pledge that the UK will leave Europe by 2025 and the edge of the Solar System by 2050. Common Market sense.

"In the meantime Greece to be bought and operated by Kent County Council. Couldn't be worse. Someone to do the bins at least."

In a video posted online he explained: "Let it be known that like many of the Parliamentary hopefuls in the forthcoming election, I have no idea where South Thanet is - but did that stop Margaret Thatcher from saving the Falkland Islands? No."

Murray, 46, is standing in a constituency which the Conservative Party won from Labour at the previous election in 2010.

It is already the focus of huge attention due to Mr Farage's decision to stand there as UKIP experiences a surge of support and now has two Parliamentary seats. His party took 5.5% of the votes in the seat five years ago.

A website he has set up for his campaign, carries the slogan: "Other parties offer the moon on a stick. We'll do better than that: a British moon on a British stick."

His decision to stand comes two years after fellow comic Simon Brodkin - known for his character Lee Nelson - handed in nomination papers to stand in a by-election at South Shields, for David Miliband's former seat. He went on to withdraw later the same day.

Other proposals include his pledge on law and order: "Unemployment causes crime: I propose to lock up the unemployed. Common sense."

And on the hot topic of immigration, he says: "Of course the reason they are coming here is because this is the greatest country in the world. The only way to stop them is for a government to change that and make things a whole lot worse. Look no further.

"However, in the meantime, we brick up the Channel Tunnel. With British bricks. Probably have to get some Poles in to do it. Common sense."

In his online address, Murray explains: "The reason I'm standing is because the system is broken, we all know it is. You hear people saying 'you shouldn't vote'. Well you should vote boys and girls, you should vote for me."

He also promises "1p a pint", although "crisps will remain at the current price".

The party's logo features an upturned pound sign, in a clear parody of the UKIP symbol.

Earlier this week the Happy Mondays dancer Bez - whose real name is Mark Berry - launched his own political bid as he confirmed his plans to stand for election for his Reality Party in Salford.

Mr Farage's team appeared unconcerned about the threat posed by The Pub Landlord.

A spokesman for the Ukip leader said: "At last, serious competition in the constituency."

In a Twitter message, Mr Farage told his rival: "The more, the merrier! @almurray".

Bookmaker's Ladbrokes installed the comedian as a 66/1 chance to take the seat, and evens to outpoll the Lib Dems, with Mr Farage remaining the firm odds on favourite to take the seat from the Conservatives.

William Hill also made FUKP the fourth favourite behind Labour but still consider Murray odds on not to get sufficient votes to retain the £500 deposit candidates must pay to take part.

South Thanet, which includes the coastal towns of Ramsgate, Sandwich and Broadstairs, has previously enjoyed a reputation as an electoral bellwether - held at every election since 1983 by the party that has formed the government of the day.

In 2010 Tory Laura Sandys ousted Labour former minister Stephen Ladyman, who had held the seat since Tony Blair's 1997 landslide when he defeated the constituency's most high-profile former MP, the Tory ex-Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, who two years later was jailed for perjury.

Mr Farage stood in South Thanet in 2005, only to finish fourth with 2,079 votes, a 5% share.

But Ukip's recent electoral success has made victory in the seat a very real prospect, with the party performing strongly in Kent in this year's European elections.

Across the Thanet District Council area Ukip topped the poll, with 16,492 votes, more than double the votes cast for the second-placed Tories.

Mr Murray studied history at Oxford, has had huge sell-out stand-up live comedy tours.

His British Comedy Award winning ITV1 series Al Murray's Happy Hour cheered viewers with his no nonsense treatment of celebrity guests as the Pub Landlord - a character he created in 1994.

After a wrangle as to whether he was "too famous" to win it, Murray won the Perrier Award with a show based around the Pub Landlord character in 1999.

A BBC online profile of Mr Farage describes him as the leader who "revels in being the man in the pub".

His final school report from Dulwich College said the school "would be a poorer place without this boy's personality". This is where he developed a love of cricket, rugby and political debate.

The Kent-born Ukip leader and MEP is the son of a stockbroker. His alcoholic father walked out on the family when he was five years old. He decided to enter the City as a commodities trader rather than go to university.

He is a father-of-four and married German-born national Kirsten Mehr in 1999.

Of his views of Britain on a national level, Mr Farage states on his website: "As a party we are unashamedly patriotic: we believe there is so much to be proud about Britain and the contribution it has made to the world. We believe that Britain is good enough to be an independent nation, trading and building harmonious relations with the rest of the world."

Laura Sandys, the outgoing Conservative MP for South Thanet, told Iain Dale on LBC: "To be frank South Thanet is not something that needs to be taken lightly, we have enough comedians standing already that we don't necessarily need another one. "

She believes that the Pub Landlord's campaign will be "fun, amusement and frippery on the side" but the people will decide on how serious politicians address the issues and challenges faced in the region.

She said: "We do have some challenges. We do not need trivialising but however if he has got some good jokes from time to time, one might need a little light relief.

"He is a counter-balance. He is another dustbin vote in the sense that people who don't know which way to go will go with Al Murray ."

She also suggested that any new interest sparked by the Pub Landlord might be good for local tourism.

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