Martin Bell in Europe bid

MARTIN Bell, the Suffolk-born war correspondent characterised as the Man in the White Suit, is making an audacious bid to become a Euro MP for the East of England.

By Graham Dines

MARTIN Bell, the Suffolk-born war correspondent characterised as the Man in the White Suit, is making an audacious bid to become a Euro MP for the East of England.

He will launch his campaign today at a media conference in Scole, where he will spell out his challenge to the "present undemocratic electoral system" and the "uninspiring politics of Europe" which he claims are a mystery to most residents.

His name will appear on the ballot paper across the whole of the East of England, which includes Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.


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The election is under the closed list system of proportional representation, introduced by the Labour in 1999. Voters choose a party, not a candidate, and their votes are redistributed among party slate until all MEPs for a region are elected.

"Nobody understands the system, it is undemocratic," said Mr Bell last night. "I am a slate of one - you vote for me and that's that."

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Mr Bell is confident he can win: "I am up for this. I have stood for election twice - winning in Tatton, losing in Brentwood and Ongar. I have never polled less than 30% and I expect to poll more than the 11% which is estimated is the threshold to get elected."

Although Suffolk and Norfolk are in his sights, he will be campaigning across the region. This Saturday, ahead of the close of nominations, he will be talking to Harwich's independent group of councillors.

"I am not attacking any of our current MEPs. They are as much victims of the electoral system as are the voters. I just want to ensure than once again Suffolk and Norfolk have a proper voice in Brussels and Strasbourg.

"I will attack the corruption of the European Union - this election is going to be a lot of fun."

He is launching his campaign by urging supporters: send me no money. He wants it to be the cheapest winning campaign in British politics and will have no headquarters offices, just a website – www.bellforeurope.org.uk .

He hopes that his election will help to end the controversial "closed list" and regional constituency arrangements which he likens to "something that the old Albanian Communist Party would have devised."

Although his career saw him globetrotting for the BBC, he never forgot Suffolk, the county he was born in and which he represented at swimming. 

He served in the Suffolk Regiment during his National Service, is president of its Old Comrade's Association and also the Japanese Labour Camp Survivors, many of whom were Suffolks and captured during the fall of Singapore in 1942.

The Euro-elections in June will be fought under the same proportional representation arrangements which saw four Tory, one Labour, one Liberal Democrat and one UKIP Euro MPs elected. One difference this time is that - because of EU enlargement - there will be only seven seats for the region.

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