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Ex-candidate hires top law firm in Tory election row

Hamish Hunter says he was unfairly removed as a council election candidate

01 February, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Hamish Hunter: ‘Instruct­ing leading counsel’

A FORMER election candidate has hired a leading law firm and is prepared to take the Conservative Party to the High Court over his claims that he was unfairly removed from the ballot paper.

Hamish Hunter, who last year spoke about his battle with depression, has brought in Mishcon de Reya to represent him in legal proceedings it is understood he will lodge against the local association in Hampstead and Kilburn, and some individuals.

Friends said this week he is looking at a case on the grounds of a breach of contract and equality laws.

They said that he was “absolutely committed to seeing it through” and was “in for the long haul”.

“If he spends two years to get what he sees as justice, then it’s the same as the two years he spent working on the election,” said one. “What’s clear, however, is this is not about money.”

His case has hung over local Tories for several months as former teammates dispute the circumstances of his departure from last year’s council election campaign.

Mr Hunter, whose godmother is Bend It Like Beckham film director Gurinder Chadha, had been a candidate in the safe Tory ward of Hampstead Town.

He was replaced two months before the polls by Maria Higson, who is now a serving councillor. Mishcon de Reya is one of the country’s highest-profile law firms and has represented Princess Diana and anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller in the past.

The firm’s involvement raises the prospect of local political figures being cross-examined or at least being asked to provide statements. If the case reaches a courtroom, it may not be heard until next year.

Mr Hunter, himself a lawyer, ramped up proceedings after being dissatisfied with the outcome of an internal complaint, which concluded that there had been no wrong-doing.

The local party is not commenting on the proceedings, but rejects any suggestion that Mr Hunter was removed because of his mental ill health and has said he resigned voluntarily.

This is a key point of the dispute. Attempts were made to suspend him from the party last year amid claims that Mr Hunter had been “threatening” and unfairly used the Facebook pages of the local parties, which he disputed and denied.

Tensions have been stretched further with Mr Hunter’s decision to publicly share private Whatsapp messages from the time he was still a candidate.

Mr Hunter said this week: “We’ve taken the decision this week to instruct leading counsel with a view to issuing proceedings in relation to how I was removed from the Hampstead Town candidacy.”

He declined to comment further.

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