Blunder puts Tories out of electoral race

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The Independent Online
AS POLITICAL blunders go, it was impressive. One moment Conservatives in Billesdon, Leicestershire, were gearing up for a tough fight in local elections. The next, they discovered they had left themselves without a candidate.

Owing to what the Tories officially describe as 'an unfortunate error', nobody got around to nominating their candidate.

When nominations closed in Leicester on Monday, Labour and the Liberal Democrats had each fielded a ward candidate for the county council elections on 6 May - but not the Tories. And since politics is really the art of the cock-up, the blunder may well prove decisive. The council is hung, and Leicestershire Tories were counting on winning Billesdon to gain overall control.

'You could say I was not exactly best pleased when I found out,' Keith Chell, chairman of Market Harborough Conservatives, said. 'It was really quite simple. Everybody thought everybody else was putting in the nomination papers.'

When the disaster was discovered just before the deadline, a Conservative official rushed with the papers to the town hall. But they arrived half an hour late and the returning officer refused to accept them.

Billesdon, currently held by the Liberal Democrats with a slim majority of 250 votes, is now certain not to fall to the Conservatives. Had it done so, the future of the county council might be different. Leicester is split, with Conservatives and a Liberal-Labour alliance at 42 seats each.

'This is especially disappointing for the electors of Billesdon, who will now be deprived of a genuine choice,' Bob Osborne, Leicester's Conservative leader, said. The local party will hold an inquiry.

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