Bell leaves church in feud with vicar

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The Independent Online
Martin Bell, the independent MP, has walked out of his local church over a feud with the vicar, after calling him "an unreconstructed Hamiltonian".

The distinguished war correspondent, who trounced Neil Hamilton in the former Conservative stronghold of Tatton, Cheshire, was angered by comments made by Reverend Derek Mills (right) in the parish magazine.

But his decision to worship elsewhere brought him face to face with the Hamilton's when they were all invited to share tea and buns after the service at Mr Bell's new chosen church in Mobberley.

Christine Hamilton, who studiously avoided the new MP, said: "It wasn't the least embarrassing - at least not for us."

Mr Bell decided to change his place of worship after seeing an open letter in the June issue of the parish magazine.

Rev Mills lamented the conduct of the General Election campaign, saying: "Wisdom in the constituency has not been increased. Do you think that when all the asses bray you get wisdom?"

Mr Bell, who moved into a rented cottage in Great Budworth, near Northwich, three weeks ago, had attended Sunday services at Rev Mills' church, St Mary and All Saints. "I have been to the church twice and the last time I went I was handed a copy of the newsletter as I walked out," he said.

"I read it and thought: `I can't go back in there'. I don't think he wanted me in his church anyway."

But the MP insisted there were no hard feelings: "Mr Mills is entitled to his political opinions. He came to one of my meetings and he was quite obviously a Tory."

Mr Mills said his article was not "anti-Bell - it is more about sympathy for Neil Hamilton".

Mr Hamilton said he was grateful to the vicar for his "expressions of Christian concern" but said of Mr Bell: "It seems that the ego has landed in Great Budworth and there are bats in the belfry."