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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 11 February, 2003, 13:22 GMT
Lib Dems jeer Tory candidate ad
Swingometer
The Tories are hoping for big gains on 2 May
Liberal Democrats have mocked Conservatives who advertised in a local paper for prospective councillors.

Mid Devon Conservatives placed an advertisement in the classified section of the Mid Devon Star to recruit candidates for elections on 2 May.

The ad said: "Conservatives have been growing in numbers across mid Devon and look set to make gains on the back of local progress made in 2001."

Kevin Wilson, Liberal Democrat press officer for the area, said: "Far from growing in numbers, the Conservatives appear to be short of numbers."

They just cannot find enough people to put their heads above the parapet and say 'I am a Tory'

Kevin Wilson

He went on: "It's the first time I have come across a political party dragging people off the streets in this way.

"It just shows what a malaise they are in.

"They just cannot find enough people to put their heads above the parapet and say 'I am a Tory and I want to go into local politics'."

'Broadening base'

The Conservatives, despite making gains, still hold only three of mid Devon's council seats against the Liberal Democrats' 17.

There are also 18 independents and one Labour.

If we can get enough support we can get a pivotal influence on the council

Mark Slater

But spokesman Mark Slater dismissed the Lib Dem jibes, saying the party was not short of supporters, but was "broadening the base of support" in the area.

He said: "It is a first for us.

"It took a lot of courage on behalf of the (party) officers, but I am glad they did it.

"We have not traditionally contested all the seats here in the past and have been willing to let the independents do the job.

"But the Liberal Democrats have made local authorities more party political, so we had no choice but to increase our presence."

That meant the party was seeking about 15 candidates for the elections, although it would "take as many as we can".

"If we can get enough support we can get a pivotal influence on the council and we shall be in a position to control it within four years."


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04 Feb 03 | England
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