Political dirty tricks claim as Tory e-mail is leaked

VENGEFUL Tories in Weston are plotting to launch a fierce letter writing campaign in a bid to oust the resort's parliamentary hopeful. The Weston

VENGEFUL Tories in Weston are plotting to launch a fierce letter writing campaign in a bid to oust the resort's parliamentary hopeful.The Weston & Somerset Mercury has received a secret email - sent only to senior Tory party members and councillors - revealing plans to try and force out Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate Mike Bell.The leaked document - sent out by Weston MP John Penrose's agent, Paul McLain - suggests the Conservatives fight to remove Mr Bell and replace him with fellow councillor and local newsagent Mark Canniford.The move follows accusations of a 'dirty tricks campaign' after Mr Bell added his details under the title 'opposition' to the bottom of an entry on Wikipedia about John Penrose. Wikipedia is a public website, which advertises itself as 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit'. Wikipedia took Mr Bell's addition off the site describing it as 'inappropriate'. Mr Penrose then described the move as 'sabotage' and accused Mr Bell of 'identity fraud'. The MP called the act a 'dirty trick'.He said: "It's sneaky and underhand, but people aren't impressed by playground politics, so I think it backfires on anyone who tries it."But Mr Bell said he added the details a year ago 'so the people of Weston could read the opposition views' The political cat fight was revealed on the front pages of a local free newspaper which has now been referred to the Press Complaints Commission for a 'misleading' article.A senior Conservative has also criticised the article and told the Mercury that he thought Mr Penrose was 'belittling internet fraud' by using Wikipedia as an example because it is a site which encourages people to add their own facts and views.In the secret email to his Tory colleagues, Mr McLain said: "If you know anyone that feels strongly about this sort of disgraceful behaviour, perhaps they might want to express their views in letters to papers. "Now that we've had a confession from Mr Bell, clearly we need to take every opportunity to highlight his use of dirty tricks to the general public. "It would also be interesting if a bandwagon was started to get the former councillor deselected as PPC. I understand that some LDs believe Mark Canniford would make an excellent replacement."Mr McLain suggests letters could be written to local papers and says:"Purely out of interest I have copied my own thoughts below. Obviously any letter writer will be using their own style and views. Any similarities in theme would be entirely coincidental."He suggests letter to papers might say: "Lib Dem Mike Bell should be ashamed of himself. "It seems Alastair Campbell is alive and well and working in Weston. It begs the question, what other nastiness has he been up to that we don't know about? "Small wonder he lost his council seat earlier this year - the town is better off without his sort."I can't believe our previous MP Brian Cotter would have had anything to do with this kind of behaviour. "The sooner the Lib Dems dump Mr Bell and choose someone with some principles the better. Our town deserves more."When the Mercury contacted Mr Bell, he said: "I'm really disappointed by the desperate mudslinging that the Conservatives seem to be engaging in. "Worse, Tory strings are being pulled by a puppet-master who doesn't even live here. The man behind these attacks, Mr Penrose's aide, Paul Mclain, is a Conservative councillor who lives in Cheltenham."He may think that these kind of smear campaigns are what politics is about. Maybe he has spent too much time in Westminster and not enough time in Weston. It's the worst kind of American-style personal attacks and it will backfire. If Mr Penrose wants to stop playground politics, it seems he needs to start with his own office."Mr Penrose replied: "Paul McLain's email expresses many people's anger and disgust at ex-councillor Mike Bell's admission about the way he doctored my Wikipedia entry, and the feeling that Weston expects better from someone who wants to represent people in Parliament. "I was away when the email was sent, and I value the support and loyalty which lay behind it, but now I'm back I'm asking everyone to calm down. "So far ex-Councillor Bell hasn't apologised or promised there'll be no repetition, and perhaps it would help to reduce people's anger if he did. But even if he won't apologise, I'm sure we can leave it to local people to make their own judgements about his behaviour the next time they go to the polls."* Mercury editor, Judi Kisiel, has also recently been the victim of a political dirty tricks campaign when a senior Tory councillor wrote a defamatory letter and sent it under a different name and address for publication. His identity was exposed by his councillor colleagues and he was forced to apologise.She said: "In an interview with Elfan Ap Rees this week he said the Conservatives on North Somerset Council wanted to get on and do things and not keep talking about them."Maybe our politicians ought to realise that actions speak louder than words."Wikipedia:* Wikipedia is a web-based, free content, encyclopedia project. It is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. With rare exceptions, its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet. In every article, links will guide the user to associated articles, often with additional information. Anyone is welcome to add information, cross-references or citations, as long as they do so within Wikipedia's editing policies and to an appropriate standard.

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