An estate agent in Staffordshire has been drawn into a political storm after local activists attempted to start a new political party with a name almost identical to his business.
Mark Francis, who runs Cannock Chase estate agency Chase Independent, is in discussions with the founders of Chase Independents, a new grouping of local politicians and activists from the Green Party and Liberal Democrats plus rebel Labour elements formed to unite in opposition against the area’s controlling Labour administration.
This follows the group’s attempts to register their new party’s name being thrown out by the Electoral Commission, which has said it could be confused with the estate agent business run by Francis.
“We came to the decision that a voter is more likely than not to be misled into thinking that the effect of a vote for “Chase Independents” (Chase Independents, Bringing Our Community Together) was a vote for ‘Chase Independent’ or a political movement connected with it,” the commission’s adjudication has said.
“On that basis we refused the applied-for party name.”
Unfortunately for both Francis and both the Greens and Lib Dems, the opposition Labour party has sought to make political capital from the name confusion.
The Labour leader, Councillor George Adamson, told local media that: ”This opportunistic manoeuvring was always a political game, where the people of Cannock Chase were an afterthought.
“But ignoring valid concerns and forcing Chase Independent estate agency to defend its identity underlines these individuals’ disregard for the consequences of their actions.
“This is the right decision by the Electoral Commission and those councillors involved should now reflect on why such a regrettable episode was ever allowed to go this far.”