The European Elections: Party officials find literal truth is hard to take - High Court action considered as 'spoiler' candidate aids Tories by splitting vote

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The Independent Online
RICHARD HUGGETT, the world's only Literal Democrat candidate, slipped quietly out of Britain yesterday after torpedoing the Liberal Democrats' chances of winning Devon and Plymouth, one of their three most important targeted seats.

Without even publishing a manifesto, Mr Huggett polled 10,203 votes, enabling the Tory, Giles Chichester, son of the round the world yachtsman, to beat the Liberal Democrat, Adrian Sanders, by 700 votes after a recount.

Liberal Democrat officials were fuming, claiming yesterday to have been inundated by calls from optically-challenged voters who had put their crosses by the Literal Democrat's name by mistake.

The constituency's Lib Dem agent, Nick Reicher, said they might challenge the result in the High Court. An appeal three weeks ago, after Mr Huggett entered his one- man party minutes before nominations closed, failed.

Mr Huggett slipped away early yesterday from his mother's house, a stately pile called Canonteign Manor in East Devon, reportedly heading for a quieter life in Spain.

Purportedly a one-time intelligence officer, he once ran a school for disturbed children in Hampshire and has now risen and disappeared on the political landscape without trace. Legends being gathered by political opponents suggest he comes from a strong West Country Liberal tradition which regards the likes of Dr David Owen and Paddy Ashdown as reincarnations of the devil.

Asked yesterday whether he had embarked on a deliberate spoiling operation, Mr Huggett replied: 'You're quite right. I'm talking about a spoiler on the back of the Porsche, that keeps the car firmly on the road and makes sure it handles well.'

The remark, part of a filmed interview shot by Westcountry TV before polling (it was to have been a programme about 'losers') was shown last night.

Mr Huggett made it clear that he thought the party political system had failed the people, hinting that future government should be conducted through electronic referenda.

'In my lifetime we've never had a government here elected by the majority of the votes cast,' he said. 'I've never known a democratic government, strictly speaking. The traditional party system generates all sorts of undemocratic processes. People should be given an opportunity to have their say; that's possible for the first time in history because we've got the technological means to ask people 'What would you do?' and we haven't exploited it. Initially you have to be brave, to trust people.'

Mr Huggett had a final thought for his fellow politicians. 'Something worth doing is worth doing badly. I'm doing this as well as I can.'

(Photograph omitted)