THE ex-politician known as the man in the white suit has given Brentwood's newest political party his backing.
The four founding members of Brentwood First, who were thrown out of the Tory party for dissent, claim they will work in the best interests of the town.
Martin Bell, the former MP and broadcaster who came within 2,800 votes of defeating incumbent MP Eric Pickles in 2001, has said the time may well be right for a resurgence of the independent vote in Brentwood.
The new group consists of William Lloyd (Warley), Phil Baker (Shenfield), Russell Quirk (Hutton North) and Nigel Clarke (Brentwood West).
They were all disciplined after rebelling against the administration over issues such as the William Hunter Way development.
Michael Large, a founding member of the Brentwood First business group, said the new party should not be confused with his group, launched in 2011 to promote commerce in the town.
He said: "It's unfortunate that we've had to dissociate ourselves from this gathering that has copied our name.
"Businesses in our Brentwood First are not supporting this party – we are independent of all parties."
The leader of the new party, Councillor William Lloyd, said: "There is no legal rule to say you have to stand down if you switch parties.
"I made a pledge as a member of the borough, not a member of the Tory Party, and I'll stick to my promises."
He added: "I want to be very clear that there are hard-working councillors in all political parties in this chamber.
"They are hard-working and principled but they are not in the majority.
"The majority believe in the party whip, but for me that me that is wrong – I believe the community is stronger when we are working together."
Mr Quirk added: "We didn't copy Brentwood First [the business group] – it was purely coincidental, although I apologise if it came across in another way."
The group has chosen ex-Brentwood Mayor Joan Holmes as chairman and ex-councillor Lionel Lee as president.
Signalling his support for the new party, Martin Bell wrote: "The campaign of 2001 showed the potential for a strong independent vote in Brentwood.
"The time may well be right for a new resurgence.
"I believe that any community can only benefit from the election of independent councillors answerable only to the people and not to a party.
"I wish the Brentwood independents the success they deserve."
But council deputy leader Roger Hirst, a Conservative, said: "We feel much more united than ever before and it's good to have the opposition outside rather than inside."