Eastbourne MPs past and present at odds over election leaflet

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AN ELECTION campaign leaflet which featured a claim about former Eastbourne MP Nigel Waterson’s expenses was “misleading and defamatory”, a court has heard.

The Royal Courts of Justice was told a pamphlet, produced by Liberal Democrat Stephen Lloyd, said Conservative Nigel Waterson was an “expenses scandal MP”.

Mr Waterson, who was Eastbourne MP until 2010, was cleared of any wrong-doing over his expenses claims and is accusing his successor of libel, a claim Mr Lloyd denies.

The action centres on a newspaper-style leaflet produced by Mr Lloyd during the 2010 General Election campaign.

His legal team told the court it was scandalous that taxpayers had funded mortgage interest payments on Mr Waterson’s second home despite it being normal practice and permitted by parliamentary rules.

Mr Lloyd’s legal team said their defence would be “honest comment”.

Mark Elder, partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell said, “In spite of the fact that Mr Waterson’s expenses claims for a second home in outer London were clearly within the rules, had been given a clean bill of health by an independent investigation and he had done nothing wrong, the Lloyd campaign persistently issued news reports in Liberal Democrat election newspapers that alleged Mr Waterson was an ‘expenses scandal MP’ who had abused the system.”

Mr Elder said Mr Waterson did not seek to challenge the results of the election but “simply wishes to vindicate his reputation with the general public and the people of Eastbourne”.

High Court Justice Michael Tugendhat will decide whether the case will proceed within the next few weeks.

Mr Waterson was the Member of Parliament for Eastbourne for 18 years and lost his seat in last May’s election to Mr Lloyd, who won with a majority of more than 3,000 votes.