Martin Bell in bid to oust Vaz and Duncan at next election
Self-styled anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell has launched a search for candidates to stand against MPs Keith Vaz and Alan Duncan at the next election.
Both Leicestershire MPs were the subject of widespread criticism in the recent MPs' expenses row. Mr Bell, the former BBC foreign affairs correspondent and one-time Independent MP for Tatton, said: "I think it could work, we just need to find the right candidates".
He has already spoken to two local people – one in Leicester East and one in Melton and Rutland. Both are now considering standing.
Nationally, Mr Bell wants to target seats whose MPs had the highest profiles during the expenses scandal. He has not said how many seats his Independent Network group plans to fight. Leicester East MP Mr Vaz was criticised for his expenses claims, which included claiming £75,000 expenses on a flat in Westminster, despite his family home being just 12 miles from Parliament, and spending £480 of taxpayers' money on silk cushions.
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He later paid back expenses he had claimed to furnish his city home.
Mr Duncan, MP for Melton and Rutland, was criticised for claiming more than £4,000 on his garden. He apologised and paid back the money.
When the expenses story broke, both MPs stressed that all their claims were within the parliamentary rules.
MPs returned to the Commons earlier this month after a three-month break.
A lot of MPs have now received letters from Sir Thomas Legg, who has been conducting an inquiry into the expenses scandal.
Many are being asked to pay back some of their claims.
Mr Bell said: "I think people are still very angry and they want change. My suggestion is that we need to do something to bring about that change."
Alan Duncan has a majority of 12,900 in Melton and Rutland. In Leicester East, Keith Vaz has a 15,800 majority.
Mr Bell claimed: "I think we're in a situation now, after the expenses scandal, where no seat is safe. Our political system is undergoing a transformation.
"Ideally, the two Independent candidates for Leicester East and Melton and Rutland should be local, well-known people and not of the political class.''
The Mercury understands that one of the people Mr Bell has been speaking to is a retired professional woman, who lives in Leicester East, who is considering standing against Keith Vaz.
Mr Bell said he wanted people to write to the Mercury and also get in touch with the Independent Network – www.independentnetwork.org.uk.
We invited Alan Duncan and Keith Vaz to comment. Mr Duncan declined. Mr Vaz's office said they would call us back but did not respond by the time we went to press.