BELEAGUERED Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd is gearing up to appeal against a top judge’s ruling that he made defamatory comments about the man he beat in last year’s General Election.
Last week Mr Lloyd lost a case in the High Court which ruled that election campaign literature distributed by the Liberal Democrats calling Mr Waterson an ‘expense scandal MP’ was defamatory.
Mr Lloyd, who beat Conservative Mr Waterson last year with a majority of 3,000, is facing a bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds for legal costs and may also have to pay out a yet-to-be-decided settlement in aggravated damages to his predecessor.
And he is also facing calls from members of the public to stand down.
Reader Peter Parfitt-King, of Princes Road, said the ‘only honourable position left’ for the MP is to resign ‘with immediate effect’.
A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats yesterday (Tuesday) said Mr Lloyd had applied to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal against the judgement handed down by Mr Justice Tugendhat.
The spokesperson said no decision had yet been made as to whether Mr Lloyd or the national party would foot the bill for the legal costs if the permission to appeal is not successful.
The spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat Party at the London HQ said, “The whole party is completely behind Stephen and we are delighted to have been able to bring such a dedicated and hard-working champion of Eastbourne to Westminster.
“We will continue to fight the court case, and will stand with Stephen in the same way he stands up for his constituents every single day.”
The spokesperson also said the party printed the leaflets, campaigned for Mr Lloyd’s election and entirely supported him in the action.
At Thursday’s hearing Mr Justice Tugendhat threw out Mr Lloyd’s defence – and that of his agent Rebecca Carr – of honest opinion and justification and said he had ‘no hesitation in doing so’.
Mark Elder, who heads Mr Waterson’s legal team, said both Mr Lloyd and Ms Carr ran a defamatory campaign in their General Election publications which alleged that Mr Waterson was ‘an expenses scandal MP’.
Mr Elder said, “In spite of the fact that Mr Waterson’s expenses claims for a second home in outer London were found by Sir Thomas Legg to be within the rules, the Lloyd campaign persistently issued claims in Liberal Democrat election newspapers that alleged Mr Waterson was an ‘expenses scandal MP’ who had abused the system.
“They also suggested wrongly that Mr Waterson’s main home was not in his constituency.”
Mr Waterson said this week he was pleased to have been vindicated by the court.
“This has been a long and stressful episode for me and my family,” he said. “I am delighted the court has decided I was the victim of damaging and baseless accusations by Mr Lloyd and his agent.
“It was a clear cut decision. I have not sought to challenge the result of the election.”
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