A CONSERVATIVE MP has called for plans to erect an eight foot tall statue to a dictator to be scrapped.

Newhaven town council’s acceptance of a Vietnamese Embassy plan to mark Ho Chi Minh’s connection with the Sussex town with a new statue overlooking the harbour have sparked controversy both locally and online.

Maria Caulfied, MP for Lewes, has now called for the plans to commemorate the former Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh to be abandoned, calling him “a deceased communist dictator who was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.”

She has received numerous complaints from residents about the plan erect the statue to remember how Ho Chi Minh worked in the kitchen on the Newhaven ferry in around 1911.

She added: “A statue when the town is in such need of regeneration is not the best use of money wherever it’s coming from.”

“The other issue is, is Ho Chi Minh a man we should be commemorating?”

Seaford resident Rosemary Atrill wrote to Miss Caulfield when she heard about the plans.

She said: ”I can’t understand why a country like ours, a free democracy, would erect an 8 foot commemorative statue to Ho Chi Minh in such a prominent position.

“The only other places with statues to him are communist countries.”

Dozens of posts on Maria Caulfield’s facebook page agree with the sentiment, featuring words like “bizarre”, “outrageous” and “a disgrace” alongside stronger language.

Jackie Cole, town clerk at Newhaven town council, said: “We don’t see it as honouring Ho Chi Minh.

“Of course he has a mixed legacy but really this is just an acknowledgement of a quirky twist of history, not honouring the man’s legacy, and it’s good as a point of interest for the town.”

In May 2013 Newhaven promoted Ho Chi Minh’s unlikely connection to the town on streetlights.

Vietnamese Ambassador Vu Quang Minh donated a small bronze statue and laid a memorial stone at the harbour, which was always intended to be replaced by a grander monument.

Tony Helyar, curator of the Newhaven Museum, which houses the 3-foot statue donated in 2013, said: “I think if you spoke to anyone in Newhaven people would think that anything that enhanced the town would be a good thing.

“Although if you look into it he was hardly a pinnacle of virtue.”

And Newhaven chamber of commerce secretary Paul Boswell agreed, saying: “This story about Ho Chi Minh working on the ferry helps put Newhaven on the map, and reminds people that Newhaven has a ferry port and it’s a good place to do business.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

In April University of Sussex students were among those invited to submit designs for the statue.

Documents exclusively seen by the Argus show the structure can measure up to eight feet tall and occupy a space almost twelve feet across.

A university spokesman said: ”I understand the embassy has received six entries, so it’s their decision now, and it will be a donation from the Vietnamese Government to the town of Newhaven.”

The Vietnamese Embassy was unavailable for comment.