Election '97 : Bell beats off Hamilton's bid to scupper nomination

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The Independent Online
The battle for the hearts and ballot slips of Tatton's voters took another bad-tempered twist yesterday when the Tory candidate Neil Hamilton launched a last-ditch attempt to scupper the electoral chances of his rival, Martin Bell, by lodging an objection over Mr Bell's use of the word "independent".

Along with nine other candidates, Mr Bell had his nomination formally accepted yesterday, describing himself as an Independent. He had planned to describe himself as "Independent Anti-Corruption", but withdrew the words "anti-corruption" following the threat of legal action.

Speaking after his nomination was accepted, Mr Bell, who was proposed by former Tory councillor Laurence Hobday, said that his title was irrelevant. "I'm standing as an Independent, but everyone knows it's on an anti-corruption platform.

As he formally launched his election campaign with a walkabout in Alderley Edge, in Cheshire, he revealed that he was also being supported by two former mayors, one Labour and one Liberal Democrat, two war veterans and an England cricketer. "He's going to teach me to deal with the bouncers that may be coming my way," Mr Bell said.

The first came just hours later, with the news that Mr. Hamilton's agent had launched a formal objection to Mr Bell's description of himself as Independent.

"Bell is not an independent candidate. He is a stooge of the Labour Party with Liberal support," Mr Hamilton said. "I call on him to withdraw his nomination papers and allow Tatton's voters a real choice between political parties."

But the acting returning officer, chief executive of Macclesfield Borough Council, Brian Longden, rejected the complaint by Mr Hamilton, the former minister at the centre of the cash-for-questions row. A spokesman said: "The acting returning officer has replied to say he cannot accept the objection as valid. Martin Bell's nomination is valid."

Mr Bell described the attempt as "a desperate effort by a desperate man". "I was nominated by a Conservative councillor ... so Mr. Hamilton cannot claim that my nomination was anything other than totally cross-party," he said.

As the list of candidates was closed at 4 pm yesterday, there initially appeared to have been another twist, with the description of candidate Simon Kinsley as an "Independent Conservative".

But just half an hour later, a rather embarrassed spokesman for the council admitted that the description had been a mistake, and that the candidate was, in fact, simply Independent.

Other candidates standing in Tatton are: David Laurence Bishop, Lord Byro v The Scallywag Tories Party; Sam Hill, Independent candidate; Michael Paul Kennedy, Natural Law Party; Simon Lowther Kinsey, Independent candidate; John Richard Muir, Albion Party; Ralph Nicholas, Independent candidate; Burnel Craig Penhaul, commonly known as Miss Money Penny the Transformer Miss Money Penny's Glamourous One Party; and Julian Matthew Price, Juice Party.