THE starting gun will be fired on the General Election in Ludlow tomorrow (Friday) when former MP Christopher Gill launches his campaign to regain the seat he held for 14 years.

But this time Mr Gill, who was Conservative MP between 1987 and 2001, will be standing as the candidate for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP).

He stood down nine years ago after falling out with his party over its policy towards Europe. His career in Parliament included rebelling over the Maastricht Treaty.

“I am standing because there are important principles at stake and the British people have been denied the referendum on our membership of the European Union that they were promised,”

said Mr Gill.

“There is so little to choose between the three main parties and they all consistently refuse even to debate important issues such as Europe, immigration and how we are governed.

“I am giving the people of Ludlow a real choice and the opportunity to send a message to the political parties.”

The 71-year-old former MP said that there is all to play for at the election and that he expected to pick up support from Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

“For the first time in a long time, we have a General Election that is too close to call and a hung parliament is a real possibility. So much has gone on, including the expenses issue, that we do not know how it will play out.”

Mr Gill, who resigned from the Conservative party in 2006, added he had a message for critics who complain his inter vention could take enough votes to let the Liberal Democrats win in Ludlow.

“This is not about putting a spoke in the Conservative wheel and, as it happens, I think that I will pick up votes from all the other parties,” he said.

“I am in many ways a natural Conservative who started working for the party when I was in short trousers.

It is not me that left the Conservative party but the party that left me.”

He said a pressing priority was to get a better deal for rural areas that had not received the help that has been provided to cities and urban areas.

“Places like Ludlow need more help.

Some people seem to think you can live off a nice view.”

Candidates facing him at the election, which is widely expected to be in May, will include the sitting Conservative MP Philip Dunne, Liberal Democrat Heather Kidd, the Green Party’s Jacqui Morrish and Labour’s Tony Hunt.