A WAR of words has erupted between two Hampshire general election candidates over whether one should have appeared in uniform on a political leaflet.

Tory Julian Lewis accused rival Terry Scriven of breaching the spirit of Army rules after his photograph was used on the front of a Liberal Democrat newsletter in January.

But Mr Scriven has described the attack as “absolutely disgusting” saying the newsletter was non-political.

The former Military Police colonel said the picture was taken last October at Totton and Eling branch of the Royal British Legion where he presented the Armed Forces Veterans Badge to 30 men and women.

Mr Scriven, who is standing against Mr Lewis in the New Forest East constituency, said: “There’s no reason why that picture should not have appeared in there. It’s non-political. As a senior officer everyone who is rated above the rank of major is authorised to wear their uniform on special occasions.

“It was appropriate for me to wear the uniform to make this presentation to our local veterans.

“I’ve spent my life looking after veterans and to me this seems to smack of gutter politics. It’s a pity that Mr Lewis is so extremely concerned that he will not win this election.”

Mr Scriven confirmed that he had been contacted by senior Army officer Mike Griffiths warning him not to wear uniform during the election campaign.

Mr Lewis, himself a former seaman in the Royal Navy Reserve, serving on the Southampton-based minesweeper HMS Glasserton during the Cold War, said: “So far as I can tell, pictures of Terry Scriven dressing up in his Military Policeman’s uniform now, when he retired back in October 1998, actually irritate more people than they impress – particularly ex-servicemen.

“What is more worrying is his distribution of posters telling voters to support “Colonel”

Scriven, though he no longer holds that rank.

For some reason, he does not want to use his correct title, which is “Colonel (Retired). I shall be interested to see what eventually appears on the ballot paper.”

New rules brought in on March 31 concerning army dress regulations mean retired officers have now been banned from hitting the election trail in uniform. Prior to the change Mr Scriven said he asked Army bosses for permission to wear his uniform for the presentation, which was granted.

Other candidates standing in New Forest East MP are Labour’s Peter Sopowski and the Green’s Beverley Golden.