ASHCROFT AFFAIR: MP has flair for political battles

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PETER BRADLEY, the MP who has brought the Tory treasurer into the political limelight with a series of attacks, is no stranger to controversy. The MP for The Wrekin cut his teeth during the homes-for-votes scandal involving Westminster City Council in central London.

Elected a Labour councillor in Westminster in 1986, he was one of the original group who demanded an investigation into political corruption in the borough. He also led a campaign to force the council to buy back three cemeteries it had sold for 15 pence.

Mr Bradley was educated at Abingdon School, Oxford, and the University of Sussex before studying at the Occidental College in Los Angeles. He pursued a career as a public affairs consultant before becoming managing director of the influential Millbank Consultants Ltd from 1993 to 1997.

After Mr Bradley was selected as the 1997 candidate for The Wrekin, a Tory seat held by the right-wing bruiser Peter Bruinvels, he was repeatedly attacked by the Tories. He even extracted libel damages from The Times, the newspaper he has assisted in its campaign against Michael Ashcroft, over a story planted by the Conservatives, which suggested he had not filled in Westminster council's register of interests properly.

The Ashcroft affair has put him firmly back into the spotlight and the MP has put much of his energy in recent weeks into digging out new facts about the Tories' main donor. One of his biggest triumphs was persuading the Foreign Office to admit that it had lobbied Belize on Mr Ashcroft's behalf. But the day after the story appeared on the front page of The Independent, Mr Bradley was enjoying quite a different kind of acclaim in his constituency.

Splashed across the front page of the Shropshire Star was another triumph of which he was equally proud - victory in a campaign to move an electricity pylon that had caused uproar in the village of Hadley.