Bell raises the standard for cleaner class of democracy

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The Independent Online
Martin Bell, the new Independent MP for Tatton in Cheshire, vowed yesterday that he would continue to raise the issue of standards in public life, possibly with the help of the Labour Government.

Speaking at a press conference in Knutsford, Mr Bell, who overturned a majority of 22,000 in the fourth safest Conservative seat in the country to win his own of 11,000, said that one of his priorities would be to secure a place on the Committee of Standards and Privileges.

"The issue that got me elected had to do with standards and practices and increasing trust in the public of their elected representatives.

"I want to be as effective as I can on that issue and that will obviously involve co-operating with the Government," said Mr Bell, who made it clear that he had not been approached by the incoming Labour administration to do so.

Mr Bell, his white suit a little crumpled after a night of celebration, added that his medium-term goal was simply to be "as good a member of Parliament for constituents as is possible".

To do this, he said, he would be in regular contact with the Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs who had stood down so that he could contest the seat against Neil Hamilton, the former Conservative minister at the centre of sleaze allegations.

"In particular, I want to work with local councillors. I also hope to have a constructive dialogue with the local Conservative Association," Mr Bell said.

He added that his other prime concern would be to help the families of servicemen.

The former war correspondent ascribed his astonishing victory to the "solid support" of the Labour and Liberal Democrat voters. "But I know we must have got at least 10,000 Conservative voters. We also attracted a large proportion of people of no political persuasion who otherwise would not have voted," he said, adding that the result was "humbling".

Having enjoyed a rapturous welcome during a walkabout of his new constituency yesterday morning, Mr Bell admitted he felt some sympathy for his former rival "as a human being".

"But then I also told myself that he had got himself into this position. So much the obvious thing for him to have done was stood down and withdrawn his candidature for someone who would certainly have won for the Conservatives," he said.

Mr Hamilton, following his defeat, made a less-than-gracious speech in which he vowed to be back "as a politician and as a man".