UKIP's prospective candidate Neil Hamilton withdrawn his bid to become the next MP in South Basildon and East Thurrock - and backed deselected Kerry Smith instead.

The former Tory, who became embroiled in a “cash-for-questions” scandal in the Nineties, was one of five names on a party shortlist to fight for Conservative Stephen Metcalfe’s seat

In last night's hustings, Mr Hamilton withdrew and announced he supported Kerry Smith - who was ousted from his candidacy in October. 

Basildon group leader Mr Smith was deselected despite him previously being chosen as candidate by the local branch.

"He should never has been deselected in the first place, in my opinion, and he will make an excellent member of parliament for Basildon," said Mr Hamilton.

In the end Mr Smith was chosen as UKIP's candidate for South Basildon and East Thurrock.

Mr Hamiliton added: "I would not have put my hat into the ring if I'd known that Kerry was going to be a candidate.

"I didn't know until I got here that his name was included in the ballot paper."

This week, two sources close to the party revealed Mr Hamilton, Ukip’s deputy chairman, and Ian Luder, Basildon Hospital chairman, who announced he is leaving the role next March, had made it on to the list.