UKIP leader Nigel Farage has spoken again of his party’s drive to pick up seats in south Essex at the next general election.

Mr Farage, 49, came to Thurrock on Wednesday ahead of a local council by-election, but said the whole of south Essex would be a target for his party when voters go to the polls in 2015.

Thurrock Council has called a by-election in Stifford Clays following the death of long standing Labour ward councillor Diana Hales in early September.

But Mr Farage suggested Basildon would also be on the party’s hit list in the future, even though he wouldn’t whether he would personally stand for Parliament.

He said: “South Essex with areas like Thurrock and Basildon have always been one of the most interesting in elections around Britain as they are real ping pong seats.

“The most sincere answer I can give you is come back to me and ask the same question next summer once the European Elections have finished and I can give you a more detailed answer.

“I would be very surprised though if constituencies like Thurrock are not still on our priority list.”

Looking ahead to the by-election, Mr Farage said he thinks his party have a fantastic chance of gaining another seat at Thurrock Council having won one at the 2012 local elections.

He added: “I think this area is very representative of Britain today.

“It has it’s good bits and it’s bad bits. Businesses seem to be doing well but there are youngsters who are struggling to find work, so it is quite representative.

“We are fighting this to win, not just to be one of the runners and riders.”

During his visit, Mr Farage visited Williams Butchers, where he was given three bags of pork scratchings for free, and R&S Videos.

Sandra Jones, who works at R&S Videos, said: “It was a bit nerve racking as I have never spoken to someone like that before.

“But it is nice if he is going to listen to what have got to say. He is listening to what people in the community have got to say.”

But shopper Muhammed Paracha said: “I am not a supporter of him or his party’s policies. He is a politician and he is trying to gain ground for his party.”