Lib Dem Watch reports on the latest embarrassing episode in the Nokia Davies mobile 'phone saga. Local residents in Winchester have issued the following:
Press release from Byron Avenue phone mast protesters. 2 July 2004
LIB DEM RED FACES IN BIRMINGHAM BY-ELECTION
The row that has erupted over the Lib Dem choice of candidate in the forthcoming Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election comes as no surprise to Winchester phone mast protesters. Given the large number of ongoing Midland phone mast campaigns, they were amazed to learn of the selection of Nicola Davies, Council Liaison Officer for the Mobile Operators Association, whom they got to know well in her previous job with telecom giant Orange.
The long running battle to prevent the company erecting a thirty-nine foot mast in Byron Avenue, a leafy Winchester cul-de-sac, close to a primary school, will be approaching its fourth anniversary when campaigners head back to the High Court in November. They will be hoping to overturn last year's appeal decision in favour of Orange. Ms. Davies appeared as one of the chief witnesses for Orange at the public hearing, which lasted for nine days in total and spanned eight months.
Winchester MP, and Lib Dem frontbencher, Mark Oaten has supported campaigners from the start and spoke on their behalf at the hearing. He has not had a happy relationship with Orange, who had rebuffed his numerous attempts to get the company to find a less contentious site. Byron Avenue campaigners are not expecting him to be rushing up to Birmingham to endorse Ms. Davies' campaign. They believe that Ms. Davies' continuing involvement in promoting telecom companies is at odds with Lib Dem statements about tougher controls on the industry.