Candidate aims to smoke out Tories' tobacco lobby funding

Click to follow
A pensioner is to petition the Privy Council to investigate tobacco industry funding of the Conservative Party and the role of the tobacco lobby in Britain.

Anthony Samuelson, 67, a former councillor and Conservative supporter, intends to stand in the South Wirral by-election on an anti-smoking ticket and has asked more than 30,000 potential voters in the constituency to back his petition.

Mr Samuelson, a retired film executive and former lawyer, believes he is the first citizen for hundreds of years to seek an inquiry from the Privy Council - an ancient body whose formal role is as adviser to the monarch. "Everyone has the right to redress a grievance and the way to do this is to petition the Privy Council," said Mr Samuelson, who lives in north London.

He added: "The Privy Council lies at the heart of our constitution and the petition has to be dealt with in accordance with constitutional usage

"This means that whilst it can be rejected, it cannot be ignored."

Whatever the date and result of the by-election - which follows the death of the Conservative MP Barry Porter last year - Mr Samuelson hopes the Privy Council will order an investigation into what he sees as one of the great unreformed evils of society.

"The tobacco industry uses advertising, promotions and sponsorship to put about the idea that smoking is the cool, smart, sociable and adventurous thing to do. As a result, one in five of our children will become hooked before their 16th birthday."

Last year, he stood as an independent in the Staffordshire South East by-election but through lack of publicity felt he had failed to do the anti-tobacco cause justice.

"I had not intended to stand again, and I will certainly not stand at the general election, but I thought this was an opportunity to get it right."

Mr Samuelson is asking the constituents of South Wirral to write to him in support of the petition. He will not comment on the exact cost of his campaign but believes it could run into a "five-figure" sum.

"I looked upon it as a choice between say a first-class berth on a world cruise or doing this. I chose this and my wife, Carol, supports me."

The constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor, of Brasenose College, Oxford, said the petition to the Privy Council was a waste of time. "It is purely a formal body," he said.