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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 18:32 GMT

UK Politics

Tories up in arms over website

The website purports to categorise Tory candidates according to their Euro-views

A number of Conservative MPs are contemplating legal action against a lecturer who has published a list of party election candidates and their supposed views on Europe.

The so-called "Candidlist" has appeared on the internet, and categorises hundreds of Tories as either "Europhile" or "sceptic" - with the remainder being given a question-mark.

Self-styled Candidlist webmaster Dr Sean Gabb, who is also editor of The Libertarian Alliance magazine Free Life, says the question mark indicates that the individual has avoided giving a view on Europe one way or the other, or that they will simply do what they are told.

Dr Gabb's aim is "to prevent those who put themselves forward as candidates from deceiving activists on the most important issue of our time - Europe". He encourages party workers and activists to check prospective candidates against his list.

"In the past there has been a serious problem with candidates who hold strong views on Europe lying to selection committees about their genuine opinions in order to guarantee success."

[ image: Ian Bruce MP had his entry on the list changed after he complained]
Ian Bruce MP had his entry on the list changed after he complained
But many of the 200 or so individuals categorised as Europhile - defined by Dr Gabb as those "generally enthusiastic about EU integration and supportive of the Euro" - are angry at the implication that they are out of line with Tory leader William Hague.

Complaint over classification

Ian Bruce, Tory MP for Dorset South, was at first categorised on the website as a Europhile, but after he complained was reclassified as a sceptic.

Mr Bruce said regardless of the change in classification, he was considering legal action against the website.

"I have had them change my designation, but I'd be very happy to pitch in with a number of my colleagues to take these people to court and get substantial damages because they certainly libelled me in the first place," he told BBC Radio 4' The World at One.

"And the information that they've given me since has demonstrated they were libelling me because they had no knowledge of my views before they put the information on the web."

Mr Bruce pointed to the implication of deceit as libellous. "What it said on the list was that there were Conservative MPs and candidates going around to their constituents lying to them about their real views," he said.

"So in effect they were saying 'here is Ian Bruce going around lying to his constituents, going around eastern Europe lying to everybody about his real intentions'."

'Get in touch'

Dr Gabb admitted on the same programme that "a mistake was made in the case of Ian Bruce, and that was corrected as soon as possible".

"This is a very fast moving debate, and people who might well have been Europhiles two years ago, are not now," he added.

"All these people need to do is get in touch with me," he said of individuals who were unhappy at being listed on the site.

"Whenever a candidate has come to me and said 'I have been misclassified' or 'I have changed my mind', I have immediately reclassified them and put the whole correspondence up."

Dr Gabb said his campaign was justified by the serious nature of the subject it dealt with. "Really and truly this is the most important single issue of the day," he said.

"I think activists do have a right to know where their candidate stands on Europe."

Conservative Central Office said it had no jurisdiction over the website, nor could it be expected to take responsibility for any site which happened to use the word "Conservative" in its title.

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