Ex-journalist Bell helping independent's battle to oust Malik

THE former journalist who ousted embattled Tory MP Neil Hamilton in 1997 has revealed he has helped a campaign to defeat Government Minister Shahid Malik at the general election.

Martin Bell said he has helped canvas and fundraise for independent candidate Khizar Iqbal, who is standing against Mr Malik in Dewsbury.

The seat is one of several where Mr Bell has given his backing to independent candidates standing against MPs whose expense claims caused controversy.

It promises to be a fierce fight at the election, with the Tories also hopeful of defeating Mr Malik, who has fiercely defended his claims and was cleared of breaching the Ministerial code after controversy over the rent of his office.

Dewsbury South councillor Khizar Iqbal left the Tories last year after they selected barrister Simon Reevell as their candidate, so he could stand as an independent.

In an interview this weekend, former BBC reporter Mr Bell, who quit his job to take on Mr Hamilton just before the 1997 election, said it is "remarkable" that the frontbenches on both the Labour and Tory side still have people whose expenses have been controversial. "I think it's up to the people to remedy that," he said.

Referring to Mr Iqbal, he said: "He was a Tory councillor. He didn't get the nomination so he turned independent. He has got a fantastic campaign going, he's got 50 volunteers. He could actually do it."

Among the other prominent MPs in Mr Bell's sights are Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove and prisons spokesman Alan Duncan, along with former Labour Ministers Hazel Blears, Keith Vaz and Geoff Hoon.

Mr Malik has been MP for Dewsbury since 2005, and has a majority of 4,615.