Police drop inquiry into MP's assault claim

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The Independent Online

The investigation into a claim by the controversial former "Blair Babe" Helen Clark, MP that she was assaulted by her Conservative rival while campaigning in her constituency was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday.

The investigation into a claim by the controversial former "Blair Babe" Helen Clark, MP that she was assaulted by her Conservative rival while campaigning in her constituency was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service yesterday.

Cambridgeshire Police said the inquiry into the alleged attack, which she said happened in Peterborough city centre on a Saturday afternoon last October, was being discontinued because of a "lack of evidence".

The man she claimed attacked her, Stewart Jackson, the Tory parliamentary candidate at the next election whom she defeated in the 2001 vote, instructed his solicitors to begin proceedings in the High Court against her.

Mr Jackson, a former local councillor and human resources consultant, said he was seeking compensation for defamation of character and malicious falsehood. He said any damages he received would be donated to local charities.

Mr Jackson says he and his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time, were jostled during a confrontation with Mrs Clark, 50, and her supporters outside the Buttercross Café in Peterborough. The incident was reported on the front page of the Peterborough Evening Telegraph the following Monday.

He said: "Mrs Clark's allegations are - and always were - a politically inspired and malicious fabrication, designed to damage me as her opponent. She sought to ruin my reputation and destroy my good name."

He said the claims were the culmination of a four-year campaign against him and his wife which had gone "way above the normal rough and tumble of politics".

Mrs Clark accused her rival last night of "resorting to the politics of the gutter". Describing him as a "sad little man", she said there was independent evidence to prove that she had been assaulted, but added: "I am not disappointed and will not criticise the CPS at all."

David Sanders, the only Conservative member of Cambridgeshire Police Authority, said he was planning to write to the Chief Constable of the county to ask him to consider investigating Mrs Clark for wasting police time.

Mrs Clark, a divorced former schoolteacher who recently remarried, has been no stranger to controversy since winning the traditional Tory seat in 1997.

Her majority at the last election was reduced from 7,300 to 2,854 and she has been dogged by persistent newspaper allegations about her exuberant social life, which she dismissed as "facecious rubbish".

Initially an ultra-loyal Blairite, she became increasingly critical after the 2001 election, rebelling over top-up fees and the war in Iraq.

She and Jane Griffiths, the Labour MP for Reading East and another so-called Blair Babe, were the only two Labour MPs to face deselection last year. Mrs Griffiths lost her vote and Mrs Clark survived by just 11 votes.