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Thanet District Council files police complaint over controversial Save Manston Airport campaign group leaflets

Leaflets distributed by Save Manston Airport (SMA) campaigners have been handed to police after claims that views of election candidates have been misrepresented.

Thousands of flyers were posted across several wards with a star system rating how local candidates support or oppose the return of the airport.

Manston Airport
Manston Airport

Thanet District Council’s monitoring officer lodged the police complaint under section 106 of the Representation of the Peoples’ Act 1983.

Council leader Iris Johnston (Lab) said: “I have been a great supporter of Manston Airport and hoped we could find a back-to-back investor to cover all costs concerned, but unfortunately up until December 11 no one had come forward to answer all of our questions.

“As one of the original members of SMA I was disappointed to see a widely distributed leaflet claiming to know views of all the candidates and in particular the Labour Party candidates I am the agent for.

“Having talked with them we expressed the opinion that we are waiting for the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report which is not due until the end of May.

“I urge people to vote with care - from August to December we gave RiverOak the opportunity to answer and from that point the Department for Transport delayed the process until March.

“Now we are waiting until the end of the month for the report - we weren’t the people delaying things.”

Iris Johnston
Iris Johnston

East Kent Coast Liberal Democrats have also lodged a police complaint.

Chairwoman Lynne O’Donoghue said: “Our candidates have no record of having been contacted by this group, nevertheless they have been classified as neutral, undecided and indifferent.

“It is a well-known fact – documented by press releases, election leaflets and stated at parliamentary hustings – that the Liberal Democrats have been consistently united and vociferous in their support for the re-opening of Manston Airport.

Liberal Democrat election candidates George Cunningham and Russ Timpson, for North and South Thanet respectively, added: “We have been working with SMA and other groups supporting the re-opening of the airport ever since its closure was announced over a year ago.

“We have been making supportive public statements at all their meetings. Now, out of the blue, SMA is interfering in the political process.

“This action has destroyed the credibility of SMA and is ultimately highly damaging to our campaign to save the Airport.”

Dr Beau Webber
Dr Beau Webber

Chairman of SMA Dr Beau Webber said: “We collated our information full-time for about two months and tried to give fair ratings.

“We repeatedly emailed councillors and knocked on their doors and we had replies from most people.

“We covered the crucial wards with people significantly opposed to the airport and have supported people in favour.

“We have been very careful and contacted the Electoral Commission and they seem happy with it.”

A Kent Police spokesman said: "We have received information relating to election literature. Officers are making enquiries to establish whether any offences have been committed."

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