Nottingham

Patrick Mercer lobbying claims: Tories bid for Newark candidature

A new Conservative parliamentary candidate for Newark is due to be selected later after Patrick Mercer resigned amid lobbying allegations.

Mr Mercer is now an independent MP for Newark but has decided not to stand at the next election.

He resigned the Tory whip after the BBC's Panorama claimed he broke Parliament's lobbying rules.

The official inquiry is continuing, but a replacement candidate for Mr Mercer will be selected at a meeting later.

Mr Mercer said he decided not to stand again as an MP "around the same time" as the lobbying allegations surfaced.

But he said his decision was not related to the lobbying allegations.

"I feel that I've done my time," he said.

Four shortlisted candidates - David Lloyd, Robert Jenrick, Nigel Huddleston and Edward Argar - will be interviewed at a meeting of Newark Conservatives Association, due to start at 19:00 GMT.

One is expected to be selected as the candidate by 22:00 GMT.

'Still a Conservative'

Stuart Wallace, chairman of Newark Conservatives Association, said: "Patrick has decided in any event, no matter what happens, he won't stand in 2015, and this is a candidate to stand in 2015.

"He's still a Conservative but he felt it necessary to distance the allegations between himself and the party.

"He's an independent MP who follows Conservative policies in the house."

It is alleged that Mr Mercer accepted £4,000 to lobby for business interests in Fiji.

Panorama said Mr Mercer had been approached by a fake company set up by the programme, in conjunction with the Daily Telegraph.

Mr Mercer resigned in May and said he had referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

A spokesman for the commissioner said the inquiry was ongoing.

Mr Wallace said: "We wait to see what happens and what the commissioner reports.

"He continues to fight for improvements for the local hospital, he still fights for investment into the constituency.

"He's still a very active member of the Newark Patriotic Fund that does exceptionally good work for servicemen and women injured in battle."

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