Referendum Party sues over canvassing claim

Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party yesterday issued a libel writ following allegations that a former Tory agent was paying individuals to persuade people to vote for the party.

A report in yesterday's Express said an undercover reporter was offered pounds 6.50 an hour by Charlotte Blacker, the Referendum Party agent in Putney, south-west London, to carry out promotion work allegedly described as "canvassing".

According to the newspaper, Ms Blacker, in whose constituency Sir James is to stand as a candidate, told an undercover journalist not to tell anyone that he was being paid for canvassing.

In a secretly taped conversation, she reportedly said: "It's our word against theirs."

Under the 1983 Representation of the Peoples Act, it is illegal to pay someone to canvass on behalf of an election candidate. It is not against the law to be paid for general party work.

After serving a writ on the newspaper, a spokesman for the Referendum Party said a claim that they had paid anyone to canvass illegally on behalf of Sir James was "wholly false". The article was part of a dirty tricks campaign against them, the statement said.

It said literature and videos given out in Putney referred to Sir James as the leader of the party and not as a prospective candidate for the constituency, and that so far there had been no canvassing for votes.

The penalty for paying canvassers is a fine of up to pounds 5,000 and a five- year ban on being allowed to vote.

Tessa Hilton, deputy editor of the Express, said the newspaper would defend the action fully: "It is rather depressing that the Referendum Party, whose slogan, after all, is 'Let the people speak', should act against a newspaper bringing an issue as important as this to public attention.

"We are confident that our account of procedures of the Referendum Party in Putney, the chosen seat of Sir James Goldsmith, deserves full scrutiny."

The Tory party chairman Brian Mawhinney said there should be an investigation into the claims.

Ms Blacker, 40, who was said by workers at the Referendum Party office near Putney Bridge to be unavailable for comment, spent 12 years as the Conservative agent for Kensington. She joined Sir James' party last year.

In 1989, she helped steer the Tories to a rare by-election victory when Dudley Fishburn was elected. According to former colleagues, Ms Blacker, whose sister, Lulu, is a friend of the Duchess of York, had already established a formidable reputation as a blunt speaker.

One said: "She is a domineering character who says exactly what she thinks. If she disagreed with someone at a meeting with senior officials at Central Office, she was liable to say 'That's bollocks'."

On one occasion, she responded to what she regarded as a dull speech by a party official by getting up and handing out biscuits as he was in mid flow. Another ex-colleague said: "Frankly, she doesn't give a shit. She has that public school, Sloane Square kind of confidence."

At one time, Ms Blacker, whose family are landowners in Hampshire, had a relationship with the armed robber turned social commentator, John McVicar.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible