Ukip leader Nigel Farage has confirmed he will not be running in the up-coming Newark by-election following the resignation of Tory minister Patrick Mercer.

Farage announced he will not be standing in the East Midlands as he did not want to "distract" the party from the European elections, in which Farage believes Ukip will cause an "earthquake in British politics".

The chance for Farage to become an MP opened up following Mercer's resignation over a cash-for-questions scandal. Mercer has represented the Nottinghamshire constituency since 2001. At the 2010 general election he had a majority of 16,000.

Farage told BBC One's Breakfast: "I haven't had long to think about it but I have thought about it, and we're just over three weeks away from a European election at which I think Ukip could cause an earthquake in British politics, from which we can go on and win not just one parliamentary seat but quite a lot of parliamentary seats.

"For that reason I don't want to do anything that deflects from the European election campaign, so I'm not going to stand in this by-election."

When asked whether his decision to not run in the election was due to fear of losing, Farage replied it's about "choosing the right battles".

He added: "It's about prioritising and I know that if I were to have said yes to standing in Newark the next three weeks would be dominated by 'am I going to win, am I not going to win,' and we wouldn't be talking about open-door immigration, EU membership and that most of our laws are being made somewhere else."

Mercer resigned in disgrace after he was recorded by undercover reporters last year, appearing to accept money to lobby on behalf of Fiji's being allowed into the Commonwealth.

In a statement outside the Commons, Mercer said he was "ashamed" by his actions and apologised to the people of Newark. He added he hopes his successor is the Conservative candidate Robert Jenrick.