Bell's 'quiet conspiracy' with Waite

THE prospect of a group of high profile independent candidates fighting the general election has moved a step closer as former anti-sleaze MP Martin Bell and ex-Beirut hostage Terry Waite have forged “a quiet conspiracy between old chums.

Graham Dines

THE prospect of a group of high profile independent candidates fighting the general election has moved a step closer as former anti-sleaze MP Martin Bell and ex-Beirut hostage Terry Waite have forged “a quiet conspiracy between old chums.”

Both have Suffolk connections - Mr Bell was born near Beccles and did his National Service with the Suffolk Regiment, while Mr Waite lives in Hartest

The MPs' expenses and allowances scandal is the catalyst for the alliance and it is believed that if Mr Waite decides to stand, it will be in the Bury St Edmunds constituency represented by Tory David Ruffley, who tried to bill the taxpayers for a �2,000 state-of-the-art television bought at Harrods.

Other constituencies which could become targets of any concerted effort to remove MPs include Rutland & Stamford, represented by Tory millionaire shadow Commons leader Alan Duncan who complained of having to live on rations, and Salford, which is represented by Labour's Hazel Blears who resigned from Gordon Brown's Cabinet in May amid claims she avoided capital gains tax.

Former TV presenter Esther Rantzen has already announced she is to fight Luton South, where Labour MP Margaret Moran was criticised for claiming �22,500 in expenses to treat dry rot at her second home in Southampton, 100 miles from Luton

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Mr Bell said it was time to bring about a “more honest politics” by challenging MPs who had abused their expenses. A former BBC reporter, he was an independent MP for four years from 1997 after defeating Tory MP Neil Hamilton, who had become embroiled in “cash for questions” allegations.

He described his conversations with Mr Waite as “a quiet conspiracy between old chums. It's very informal and it's below the radar, because as soon as you go above the radar you get your head blown off by the political parties, but there are places, I think, where there are possibilities.”

Earlier this year, Mr Waite wrote in a newspaper article said independent MPs “won't have all the answers but they may well bring some fresh air into a political hothouse that has been suffocating for far too long.”

At the 2005 general election, Mr Ruffley had a majority of 9,930 over Labour in Bury St Edmunds.

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