Ken Thornber, the Conservative Leader of Hampshire County Council, has called on local Lib Dems to withdraw ‘untrue statements’ about the County Council printed in election leaflets being circulated by Lib Dems’ in Botley and Hedge End.
The Lib Dems have been distributing a newspaper style leaflet called ‘The Voice’ and under a headline entitled ‘Outrage’ the Lib Dems appear to claim that the Conservatives had planned to build 6,000 houses in the area but were thwarted by Lib Dems ‘who stood up’ against the plans.
The ‘SDA’ housing plan referred to was actually scrapped in 2010 by the Coalition government and not by Lib Dem Controlled Eastleigh Council.
The Voice also claims that the Conservative County Council are proposing to build on land they do not actually own at Tanhouse Lane – which Ken Thornber denies.
Local Blogger and Eastleigh News contributor Ray Turner first highlighted the issue in his ‘Hedge End Independent’ blog.
In a strongly worded and unprecedented press release Ken Thornber said tonight:
“I have been handed copies of electioneering literature being widely circulated across Eastleigh Borough that wrongly accuses the Conservative run Hampshire County Council of a number of things including, trying ‘to build 6.000 more houses around Hedge End and Botley’. This is totally untrue.
“The literature also wrongly accuses the County Council of wanting to sell land, it does not own, for housing development.
“These allegations are clearly being made in an attempt to mislead the electorate into voting for their candidates in the forthcoming Borough Elections.”
The Tory leader goes on to say he will complain to the Electoral Commission if the Lib Dems do not retract the allegations:
“Unless they immediately retract these statements and deliver these retractions to every household in the Borough that has received them before polling day, I shall have no alternative but to refer the matter to the Electoral Commission for their adjudication.”
It is an offence, in certain circumstances, to publish false statements on election literature. The electoral commission has the power to fine parties and candidates and even declare elections null and void as they did in 2010 over a campaign leaflet distributed by former Labour MP Phil Woolas.
In last year’s local elections the leader of Eastleigh Independent group complained to the police and the Returning Officer that a Lib Dem leaflets delivered in Central Eastleigh had falsely claimed that candidate Keith Trenchard was an ‘experienced councillor’.
This year there has already been a complaint to the returning officer from the Labour Party concerning the use of EBC email addresses by sitting Lib Dem councillors on their election literature contrary to Electoral Commission guidelines.
Ken Thornber pic by Ben Hatton