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POLITICAL PARTIES FAIL IN COURT BID TO STOP 'UNOFFICIALS'

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In a last ditch bid to prevent confusion for voters in the May 1 general election, lawyers for the three main polit...
In a last ditch bid to prevent confusion for voters in the May 1 general election, lawyers for the three main political parties went to London's high court hoping to stop candidates 'unofficially' standing under their political banners.

But few came away from Mr Justice Longmore's court pleased with what they had achieved.

For the Liberal Democrats the name Richard Huggett returned to haunt them when the judge refused an injunction preventing him from standing in the Winchester constituency under the banner: Liberal Democrat Top Choice for Parliament.

Mr Huggett, a retired headmaster, in his 50s, stood as a Literal Democrat in the Devon and East Plymouth constituency during 1994 European elections and the Liberal Democrats claim that but for his candidature they would have won the seat which is now occupied by Conservative Giles Chichester.

Following that election in which the Liberal Democrats were beaten by the Conservatives by a mere 700 votes and Mr Huggett pooled over 10,000 votes, the party launched an unsuccessful legal bid in the high court to force a re-run of the poll. Their appeal was also dismissed.

A spokesman for the Liberal Democrats said today that the party would be seeking a change in the law after the general election to prevent candidates unofficially standing under the names of established political parties.

'People who are not official candidates are setting out to deliberately confuse the electorate. We must have a change in the law. It is the electorate who lose out in the end because they are not being allowed make informed choices,' the spokesman said.

But if the voters in Devon and East Plymouth were confused by Mr Huggett's candidature in 1994, then spare a thought for constituents of Brighton Pavilion in 1997.

Mr Huggett had also sought to stand in that constituency as an Official Conservative Party candidate but Mr Justice Longmore ordered that the word 'Official' should be struck out from his description on the ballot paper.

Now voters will be presented with two choices: 'Sir Derek Spencer (the incumbent) Conservative Party' candidate and 'Richard Huggett the Conservative Party' candidate.

The judge dismissed the Tories' application for an injunction preventing Nigel Furness from standing as the Official Hove Conservative Party candidate against the Conservative Party candidate Robert Guy who hopes to hold the seat for his party following the announcement the retirement of the current MP Sir Tim Sainsbury.

Also dismissed was an application for an injunction by the Labour Party to prevent William Johnson-Smith standing as a New Labour Party candidate in Hammersmith and Fulham against the party's 'official' candidate Iain Coleman.

In Wales however, where the Conservatives are battling to cling onto a handful of seats, at least one of their MPs will have a smile on his face.

Clwyd West MP and former Welsh Office minister Roderick Richards was to have his name on the ballot papers next to Rod Richard standing for the 'Conservatory Party'.

But after the legal moves today, Mr Richards's opponent has agreed to have his real name, David Neal, substituted for the pseudonym he had adopted.

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