A COLOURFUL former MP who returned to politics with the UK Independence Party was the special guest at a Hartlepool branch meeting.
Neil Hamilton, the former Conservative MP turned celebrity who is now deputy chairman of UKIP, packed out the room at Hartlepool Cricket Club, in Park Drive.
The 64-year-old who was involved in the political scandal known as the Cash for Questions affair in the 90s before being declared bankrupt in 2001, returned to politics with UKIP a year later before taking up his current role as deputy chairman two years ago.
He told those who attended Thursday’s branch meeting of his hopes for the party both on a local and national scale in the coming years.
Tom Hind, chairman of UKIP’s Hartlepool branch, told the Mail: “We were delighted to be able to welcome Neil along to our meeting and extremely pleased with the turn out
“It’s an extremely important year for us ahead of the local elections and the European Union elections so it was great to see so many faces.”
Mr Hamilton said it was the “betrayal of the working class” which tempted him to step back into politics.
During his 14-year stint in the House of Commons from 1983 to 1997, Mr Hamilton was the Conservative party whip in his close friend Margaret Thatcher’s Government and went on to become the minister for deregulation and corporate affairs while John Major was Prime Minister.
In 1994 a national newspaper alleged Mr Hamilton was one of two Conservative MPs who had received cash on behalf of the former owner of Mohamed Al-Fayed, in exchange for asking parliamentary questions.
He has always rigorously denied the claims and went on to launch a libel claim against Al-Fayed which he lost.
Mr Hamilton lost his Tatton parliamentary seat in 1997 but went on to become a television personality featuring on a number of shows including The Weakest Link, Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Celebrity Mastermind.
Speaking after the Hartlepool branch meeting he said: “I always enjoy coming along and meeting new people and it was great to see so many here.”
Mr Hamilton was joined by UKIP MEP candidates Jonathan Arnott, who is the party’s general secretary, and Philip Broughton as the guest speakers on the night.