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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Bell to fight another Tory seat
Martin Bell
Martin Bell had promised to stand down after one term
Independent MP Martin Bell has confirmed he plans to take on another Tory stronghold by standing as candidate for Brentwood and Ongar in Essex.

The former BBC war correspondent, who promised to stand down from his Tatton seat after one term, said he would run against Conservative social security spokesman Eric Pickles.

Mr Pickles holds the Brentwood and Ongar seat with a 9,690 majority, making it the sixth safest Tory seat in the country.

Eric Pickles
Eric Pickles dismissed suggestions of the church's wrongdoing
Mr Bell, who led a successful "anti-sleaze" campaign against disgraced Tory Neil Hamilton in 1997, has turned his focus on Brentwood and Ongar after claims that the local Tory Party was undemocratic.

It has been alleged that 200 members of the charismatic Peniel Pentecostal Church have infiltrated the local Conservative Association, voting members into key posts.

The church has denied the allegations and an investigation by Conservative Central Office found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Tough challenge

Mr Pickles has also dismissed suggestions that the church, which has made claims of miraculous healing at its services, unduly dominated the association.

The battle for Brentwood is expected to be a harder campaign for Mr Bell to win than the one he fought in Tatton.

In 1997, Labour and the Liberal Democrats withdrew their candidates - but they are not prepared to do the same in Brentwood and Ongar.

Former boxer Frank Bruno had expressed interest in standing as a Tory candidate for Brentwood against Mr Bell, and had even devised the campaign slogan "Don't be a plank - vote for Frank".

But he told the BBC's On Side programme in March that the potential 50,000 cost of running a campaign had put him off the idea.

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See also:

12 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Blow for Bruno's election plan
08 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Bell set to run again
08 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Bell: A promise too far?
27 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Bell calls for fresh Chinook inquiry
18 Jan 00 | Europe
My 'friend' Arkan
16 Apr 99 | UK Politics
No way to break promise - Bell
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Tatton contenders unveiled
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