UKIP's 'dirty tricks' claim as election placards are pulled down in Devon
The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has hit out at a “dirty tricks” campaign against one of its candidates after election placards were torn down in Devon.
Landscape campaigner and UKIP hopeful Penny Mills has been targeted by politically-motivated vandals for the second time.
Mrs Mills, a vocal critic of renewable energy and spokesman for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), is standing in a Torridge district by-election tomorrow.
Earlier this week two of her campaign boards, in distinctive UKIP purple, were destroyed and left in pieces by the roadside within hours of being erected.
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The vandalism follows earlier attacks in the run up to the county council election for Holsworthy Rural ward in May, which she claims left rival signs untouched.
She insisted the act had only served to “stiffen her resolve” but said the “lack of respect for the principles of democracy” was more concerning.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion which is equally valid but certain elements seem to think it acceptable to destroy private property because they don't agree with the party,” she added.
“I have enormous faith in the people of Devon and their sense of the democratic process, however these sorts of events should be of concern to anyone who values democracy and freedom of speech, whatever their political leanings.”
Mrs Mills lost her battle to represent the county council and is now bidding to win the Shebbear and Langtree ward, following the resignation of councillor John Lewis.
Her rivals are Conservative David Hurley, Colin Jones, for the Green Party and independent Bob Wootton.
UKIP party chairman Steve Crowther, who lives in Devon, condemned the destruction as “disgraceful”.
“There is really no place for it – we have got to be able to open, honest and transparent elections,” he added.
“You always lose one or two in an election, passers-by who think it’s funny to pull them down.
“During my recent election in north Devon a pretty good graffiti artist did stencils on some of mine, one of a large Pinnochio, which I have kept.
“But he fact that this has happened twice (to Mrs Mills) suggests it is systematic – there is somebody doing it politically.”