Carswell taking an independent line

THE anti-EU Campaign for an Independent Britain will no doubt be over the moon with Harwich Conservative candidate Douglas Carswell, whose main election poster proclaims he is "fighting for an Independent Britain.

THE anti-EU Campaign for an Independent Britain will no doubt be over the moon with Harwich Conservative candidate Douglas Carswell, whose main election poster proclaims he is "fighting for an Independent Britain."

Mr Carswell, who makes no secret of his willingness to pull out of the EU as a last resort rather than join a federalist European super state, is also unrepentant at displaying the Union Jack on his election material.

"It's unfair to suggest I'm wrapping myself in the flag," he says, "but I'm proud of my country and not afraid to display publicly that pride."

On the day Deputy Prime Minister was in town to help Labour's campaign, the Tory offices were like the Marie Celeste. I ventured through the front door of 84 Station Road in Clacton to find it deserted.


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After calling out loudly for a few minutes, I helped myself to some election material and left. Those with malice aforethought would have had a field day.

MEANWHILE Labour and the UK Independence Party candidates in Harwich smell a rat at Mr Carswell's non appearance in a televised debate over Europe on Sunday lunchtime.

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The BBC had planned to gather the Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP candidates in Harwich Guildhall and discuss future relations with the EU with business and trade union leaders.

However, Mr Carswell declined, forcing the Corporation to field Tory Euro MP Geoffrey Van Orden in his place. Labour's Ivan Henderson claimed that Mr Carswell was so at odds with his leader Michael Howard on Britain's future in the EU that he was not prepared to "be exposed in front of a television audience."

Mr Henderson added that his Conservative opponent, at a public meeting in Frinton on Thursday night, had so mislead the voters on party policy that he suddenly ruled himself out of the programme.

UKIP's Jeffrey Titford weighed in: "I find his absence very odd. There is no point in standing for Parliament if you are running scared of the media."

Not true says Mr Carswell. "I talked about Europe policy on national radio last week on The World at One and will be taking part in a Salvation Army organised debate later this week.,

"I told the BBC on April 11 that I could not attend their debate. It clashed with long standing engagements at Frinton Free Church and then with pensioners in Clacton. Television may be glamorous but I was not going to break my word."

He might have added that as most people in the constituency support Ipswich Town, far more would have been watching Town play Sunderland in a vital Championship clash live on Sky Television rather than another election programme on a subject way down the list of voters' priorities at this General Election.

Who emerged unscathed from the television programme? None other than John Tipple, the Respect Party candidate, who didn't take part in the live debate, but whose recorded message was concise and didn't suffer from interruption from the other candidates.

CRIME writer Ruth Rendell, - the Labour life peer Baroness Rendell of Babergh - has today endorsed the campaign of Labour's Suffolk South candidate Kevin Craig.

Lady Rendell, who lives at Groton in the constituency, said she was very impressed at Mr Craig's campaign. "He has worked successfully to help safeguard Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury, going so far as to take the cause to the door of the Prime Minister.

"Labour can win this seat. The Liberal Democrat vote at General Elections in Suffolk South has been falling since 1997 and there is a simple choice at this General Election for South Suffolk residents - a hard working Labour

MP with a proven campaigning track record and a commitment to our area, or the same old Conservative whose party, if elected, would put at risk our economic stability and crucially, the Government's investment plans for key public services such as the NHS and schools."

Mr Craig added: "This is the first time that Ruth has endorsed a Labour candidate in the constituency in this way and is a further reflection of Labour's biggest campaign in Suffolk South for 20 years."

"THERE are lots of people who say they're not sure - and I think they mean that quite genuinely," reports East of England Liberal Democrat Euro MP Andrew Duff after a day on the stump in the Colchester, Suffolk South, Ipswich, Suffolk Central & Ipswich North and Bury St Edmunds constituencies.

"This indecisiveness is because Tony Blair has annoyed and depressed voters and the Tory slogan `are you thinking we are thinking?' has backfired spectacularly.

"People know what the Conservatives are thinking and they simply don't like its nasty overtones, aimed simply at getting their core supporters out. I am pleasantly surprised that voters are rejecting Tory hysteria over immigration and asylum."

It was a case of the "three Andrews" out and about in Suffolk Central and Ipswich North. Mr Duff was supporting Lib Dem hopeful Andrew Houseley, whose adoption meeting had welcomed Lord Phillips of Sudbury - Andrew Phillips, one of the team of legal experts who appeared on Jimmy Young's radio show.

CONSERVATIVE canvassers down my street decided discretion was the order of the day and didn't knock on my front door. Mrs Dines was unamused. "There are two voters in this house - just because they won't dare ask you who you're supporting, doesn't mean they should ignore me."

The suffragette movement has a lot to answer for!

BROOMFIELD Hospital consultant Dr Roy Chad has launched Chelmsford Labour Party's petition against Tory NHS charges with Chelmsford West Labour candidate Russell Kennedy.

"The Tory Party under Michael Howard wants to bring in subsidised charges allowing people who can afford to pay to jump the queue," said Dr Chad.

Mr Kennedy added: "To sign the on-line petition, log on to www.sixsixswing.labour.co.uk, follow the link, and send a message to Mr Howard and the Tory Party that NHS money should be spent on NHS patients, not into the pockets of the wealthy few who can already afford private treatment."

CONSERVATIVE John Gummer reports from Suffolk Coastal that "not one voter" has asked any questions on Europe. "It's all about council tax and immigration," says the pro-Europe former Tory Party chairman now fighting his seventh election campaign in the county.

"People are also saying they'll vote for me because of my opposition to the war in Iraq - I voted against in the House of Commons and instead of that being a drawback, it is working in my favour."

FOR the past 12 years, Richard Kemp has served as an Independent member of Suffolk county council for Melford. He's back on the campaign trail this time, with the enthusiastic support of the Liberal Democrats who are not fielding a candidate against him.

Indeed, the Lib Dems are so enamoured of Mr Kemp that their Suffolk South parliamentary candidate Kathy Pollard has endorsed him in his manifesto to voters.

Mrs Pollard purrs: "He has been a hard working and diligent councillor for the people of this areas. I hope you will support him again."

Mr Kemp did not, of course, flock to the Lib Dem banner when they and Labour hiked council tax by 18.5% in 2003-04. His manifesto says rather pointedly that he will "challenge excessive spending and ensure value for money for the people of Suffolk."

Other backing for Mr Kemp has come from Rex Thake, the Liberal Democrat district councillor for Glemsford, and John Brand, an ex-Tory turned Independent district councillor for Long Melford.

JOHN Holme, who is standing as an Independent candidate in Salisbury, has just been found guilty of breaching the peace by towing a large sign displaying the words: "Reject God and you may become a homosexual." During the court hearing, he claimed he was merely preaching the Gospel and quoted a passage from St Paul's Letter to the Romans to make his point.

ANYONE bored already by the General Election campaign should take a trip to Bethnal Green and Bow - the main line to Liverpool Street passes through the division - which can claim to be the most exciting constituency battle in the country.

Labour's Oona King is defending a 10,000 majority in east London in the face of a fearsome opponent, George Galloway, who was thrown out of the Labour Party for his conduct over Iraq. He's campaigning robustly under the Respect banner, which looks as though it is making huge inroads into the substantial Muslim vote there.

Such is the animosity between the two that the Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates are almost forgotten. King admits that Galloway could do enough damage to let in the Conservatives. But Galloway is fighting to win.

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