NIGEL Farage has bounced back quickly from claims he "bottled" out of standing for the forthcoming Nottinghamshire by-election by seeing Ukip record its highest poll rating, 38%, and an impressive lead of 11 points.

The surge in popularity comes three weeks before the European elections on May 22.

A separate snapshot of more than 10,600 over-50s showed that while the anti-EU party might be riding high in England at 35% and in Wales at 32%, its appeal is nowhere near as strong in Scotland at just 13%.

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Here, the SNP was the most popular party with 34%, the Tories had 23%, Labour 15% and the Liberal Democrats 9%.

In the wake this week of the resignation of ex-Conservative MP Patrick Mercer following cash-for-questions claims, Mr Farage said he would seriously consider standing in the consequent by-election but decided to rule it out; no date has yet been fixed for the contest.

"I don't have any links with the East Midlands, I would just look like an opportunist and I don't think that would work," the MEP said.

But, insisting his party would "throw the kitchen sink" at the forthcoming contest, he said: "We will fight the Newark by-election and fight it damned hard as well as get a good local candidate. I'm a fighter, I'm a warrior, but you have to pick your battles in life."