A BUSINESSMAN who ran against Jack Straw in the last election has set up a new party to represent the interests of Darwen.

And it is believed that For Darwen could have a councillor as early as next week, with at least one councillor ready to defect.

Founder member Tony Melia said he quit the LibDem party because so many people were fed up with what Labour-controlled Blackburn with Darwen Council was doing.

But leader of the council's Tory opposition, Colin Rigby, said Mr Melia's party risked dividing the LibDem vote and could let other parties in through the back door.

LibDem leader Coun David Foster was not available for comment but prominent LibDem Coun Roy Davies said the party was not worried about For Darwen.

Mr Melia, who owns Genesis Plumbing and Electrical, Duckworth Street, Darwen, said the party would take people of all political persuasions and hoped to get a town council set up to deal with Darwen's affairs.

Mr Melia, 46, intends to stand in the local elections for the Sunnyhurst ward.

He lives in the ward at Woodside Bank, off Tockholes Road.

He said: "My heart has always been with Darwen. National politics is influencing local politics and it should not be like that.

"I want a party that represents the town. I don't feel we are listened to by the ruling group in Blackburn."

He said there was a lot of ill feeling about the way issues like the proposed £34million Academy, £9million leisure centre, and traffic management had been handled.

Mr Melia is married to Blackburn College teacher Maria, 42, and they have three children aged 14, 11, and eight.

Council leader Kate Hollern said: "I am pleased he has recognised LibDems are ineffective in Darwen."

She said the LibDems had not properly taken part in consultation on schemes like the Leisure Centre.

Mr Melia helped the Lib Dems lift their share of the vote in Blackburn in the 2005 General Election from 8.1 per cent to 17.6 per cent.

He said he had not abandoned LibDem principles but did not think they had a place in local politics.