Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Monday, 17 August 2009 11:14 UK

Bell and Waite anti-sleaze move

Martin Bell
Martin Bell is considering standing for Parliament again

Former anti-sleaze MP Martin Bell and ex Church of England envoy Terry Waite are considering fielding candidates at the next general election.

Mr Bell said the idea would be to target MPs "named and shamed" in the Daily Telegraph over their expenses.

But he stressed it was a "below the radar" group and not a formal network.

Mr Bell, a former BBC correspondent, was an independent MP for four years after defeating "cash for questions" Tory MP Neil Hamilton in 1997.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was spurred into action by an article Mr Waite, a former Beirut hostage, had written in May calling for more independent MPs.

He said he had met two of the people who had contacted Mr Waite over the article and felt "they would make really good MPs".

'Revolution'

But he described the initiative as "quiet conspiracy between old chums" rather than a new political party.

"It's very informal and it's below the radar, because as soon as you go above the radar you get your head blown off by political parties, but there are places, I think, where there are possibilities."

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Mr Bell is advising campaigners in Salford, the constituency of former communities secretary Hazel Blears, who quit the cabinet over claims she avoided paying £13,000 in capital gains tax.

He has said he would prefer them to find a local candidate to take on Ms Blears.

But he has not ruled out standing somewhere at the next election, which must take place before June next year.

"I haven't decided yet and I wouldn't decide until February or March. I think I am bit old, at 70, to be one of the piston rods of revolution."

And he said Mr Waite "may have a go himself".

Rantzen standing

Mr Bell said action was needed because "not a single frontbencher who has been named and shamed by The Daily Telegraph has lost his or her job".

TV presenter Esther Rantzen has said she will stand for Parliament at the next election in Luton South, in the wake of revelations about the outgoing Labour MP Margaret Moran's expenses claims.

Ms Moran who claimed £22,500 to treat dry rot at her second home 100 miles from Luton - announced she would be standing down at the next election shortly before Labour's own inquiry ruled she could not run again for the party.

Ms Rantzen said the welcome she had received in Luton South, "impelled there by the rage many voters were feeling at the time" about the MPs' expenses scandal, had persuaded her to stand.

There are currently six Independent MPs, most of whom are former members of the main parties, including ex-Labour minister Clare Short and former Conservative Bob Spink.

Wyre Forest MP Richard Taylor is the only current member of Parliament to be elected as an Independent.



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