SHAMED former Tory MP Neil Hamilton may run for a Portsmouth seat at this year’s general election.
A leaked report suggests the UK Independence Party (Ukip) is being forced to find a seat for Mr Hamilton to campaign for – and Portsmouth South is being sized up.
As previously reported, Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he is targeting the Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire area for the general election, which will be held in May this year.
Mr Hamilton, who has already withdrawn from running in Boston and Skegness, and Basildon, said he could not comment on the rumours.
He told The News: ‘I’m sorry but, for obvious reasons, I cannot make any comment.
‘Unfortunately, Ukip is suffering a spate of leaks by people who clearly want to damage me for whatever reason and don’t mind how much bad publicity they generate for Ukip in the process.’
Mr Hamilton has connections to the city as he taught at St John’s College, in Southsea from 1973 to 1976, and his mother still lives here.
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said he wasn’t surprised to hear Mr Hamilton was linked with the seat.
He said: ‘I have no reason not to believe that he wouldn’t be a suitable candidate for Ukip.
‘Gerald Vernon-Jackson and Flick Drummond are not from here originally, so he has as much connection to the city as them in that sense.
‘I’m sure he would give people a run for their money, and I like to think if he did run it would make it interesting.’
Mr Hamilton was a Conservative MP for Tatton, in Cheshire, for 14 years until 1997. He lost his seat following the ‘cash for questions’ scandal in which a parliamentary inquiry found him guilty of taking money from businessmen in exchange for asking questions in parliament. In November 2011 he was elected on to the National Executive Committee for Ukip.
Mr Vernon-Jackson, who is running for the Portsmouth South seat with the Lib Dems, said: ‘He is someone who just withdrew from fighting a Ukip seat elsewhere and I believe he’s had problems with expenses.
‘It would be interesting to see him run – he has quite a chequered past.’
The News understands the recommendation report was given to Ukip’s National Executive Committee, but that it cannot approve candidates as that is the job of local party branches.
But the party’s second-biggest donor Stuart Wheeler believes Mr Hamilton is good for the party and may pull funding if he is not put up.
However, a national Ukip source said: ‘I would be very surprised if Mr Hamilton were to be the candidate for Portsmouth South.’
It is believed there are 12 candidates being considered for Portsmouth South, which will be cut down to four or five when Ukip holds a meeting to decide its parliamentary candidate for the seat on January 12.
At the same meeting, the party will approve plans to create two committees serving the north and south of the city.