Choice of joint anti-sleaze candidate 'near'

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The Independent Online
Labour and the Liberal Democrats are close to agreeing a joint anti-sleaze candidate to stand against Neil Hamilton, the Tory MP at the centre of the cash-for-questions row.

The move will add to pressure on Mr Hamilton as cracks emerged yesterday in his local party association. Tony Martin, treasurer of Tatton Constituency Conservative Association, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Ideally I would want Neil Hamilton to stand down."

He said he had written to the MP last week asking him to resign, and claimed he was not the first member of the constituency association to do so.

He wanted the MP to stand down "because the information coming back from people working hard in the constituency was that even if ordinary people believed he had done nothing wrong ... he had in their eyes behaved dishonourably. The fact is he has lost the confidence of the electorate."

The crunch for Mr Hamilton will come on Tuesday, when the association meets to adopt its candidate formally. There was warm support for him from the association president, Mrs Jan Verney, who said she was "a bit peeved" by Mr Martin's intervention. "He's not been involved in the party locally for very long. His loyalties are possibly not like those of us who have," she commented.

In London, a senior Labour source said it was now 60:40 that a candidate could be found who was acceptable to local Labour and Lib Dem parties. Both parties' candidates have indicated their willingness to stand aside.

Lord Holme, the Lib Dems' campaign manager, said: "There is about a 50:50 chance that we will have someone before Tatton's adoption meeting - someone who commands the support of both parties in Tatton."

One source said that several names were being bandied around but that the former inspector of prisons, Judge Stephen Tumim, had made it clear he did not want the role.