A Conservative election candidate is suspended from the party over allegations of a plot involving the English Defence League.
Afzal Amin, who denies any wrongdoing, is accused by the Mail on Sunday of collaborating with the English Defence League (EDL) to announce a protest march against the building of a “mega-mosque.”
But, according to the newspaper, the idea was for the protest to be scrapped with Mr Amin taking the credit for defusing the situation.
In return he allegedly promised that he would be an “unshakeable ally” for the EDL in parliament and help bring their views to the mainstream.
Channel 4 News has also spoken to a Muslim campaign group called MPAC who are claiming Mr Amin asked them to “attack” him for “being in the army” as it would help his “political career” and make him “look like a moderate”.
The group say they found it shocking he was seemingly willing to manufacture a story. Channel 4 News tried to put this allegation to him – but he has not yet given any response to these new claims.
A Conservative Party spokesman confirmed that Mr Amin – who was apparently filmed covertly talking about the deal – had been suspended.
The Conservative Party views this as a matter of extremely serious concern. Spokesman
“Following an emergency meeting it has been decided to suspend him as a candidate with immediate effect,” the spokesman said.
“The Conservative Party views this as a matter of extremely serious concern.”
A full disciplinary hearing is expected to be held on Tuesday, when Mr Amin will be able to explain his actions and a decision on his future will be taken.
The prime minister is understood to have been informed of the situation and approves of the way it is being handled.
Mr Amin was reportedly filmed by former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, who blew the whistle on the plot because he objected to being used as a pawn.
The candidate, said to have been described on his Tory Party website as a former British army captain, outlined his plan to Mr Robinson and current EDL chairman Steve Eddowes at an Indian restaurant in Birmingham on Monday.
The 40-year-old allegedly suggested EDL members could be paid to canvass on his behalf, and floated the idea of a phoney protest – just weeks after a real demonstration in Dudley by 600 EDL supporters led to 30 arrests.
“This is my fantasy,” he apparently says in the footage. “If I could demonstrate to the people in Dudley that I can be a positive voice for community cohesion, for development, for campaigning against the evils and the terrorism and the child grooming and all the rest of it, then that would help me a lot in the forthcoming election.
“One way of doing that is, if you were to announce a second march about the mosque … and then we have two meetings with the chief of police, members of the Muslim community, we all play our roles, you say ‘Yeah we’re going to do a march, we’re campaigning and so on’.
“We have a second meeting where things are a bit calmer then at the third one, we have a press conference where we say, ‘We were going to do a march. The chief police asked Afzal Amin, members of the Muslim community, we’ve sat together and … we’re going to work closely together.'”
Mr Amin reportedly expanded on his plot in a phone call on Wednesday and in a second meeting at a branch of Pizza Express in London on Thursday.
Paying people to canvass in elections is an offence under the Representation of the People Act 1983. When Mr Robinson raises the question of payment Mr Amin makes it clear it is illegal to pay people to canvass during elections.
But Mr Amin is said to have told the men: “I need two white working class lads to go round those areas to say to people, ‘You support the Army, if you support the troops then vote for this guy’. That’s what I need.”
When Mr Robinson suggested that would cost £500 a week, Mr Amin is said to have replied: “What’s that, £250 each a week? They do April 4 to the first week of May, that’ll be loads … from our perspective, they’re volunteers.”
Mr Amin had been due to take on sitting Labour MP Ian Austin in the election on May 7. Mr Austin had a majority of 649 in Dudley North in 2010.
Following the allegations, Mr Amin said: “Today’s allegations are part of a much wider story which has been grossly misrepresented and present an inaccurate picture of the reality of what was happening. The Mail on Sunday has provided small snippets of over 27 hours of sensitive meetings between Tommy Robinson and I which have led to a manipulation of events.
“While the meetings were intended to be private and discreet, I made sure I involved Chief Superintendent Chris Johnson from the start and I made clear, which is evident in the recordings, that I refused to do anything illegal.
“I emphatically said we could not pay anyone and that it would illegal to do so. He pushed the issue but I still did not agree to and over any money.
I refused to do anything illegal. Afzal Amin
He added: “This was altruistic, community service work. Instead of these private discussions leading to something fruitful, Robinson clearly wishes to further damage community cohesion instead of working to prevent conflict as he had originally presented himself as doing.”
Labour frontbencher Jonathan Ashworth said: “Decent people in politics share the wide consensus that the EDL are quite simply despicable. These allegations regarding such a senior Conservative Party figure in Afzal Amin are quite simply jaw dropping.
These allegations regarding such a senior Conservative Party figure in Afzal Amin are quite simply jaw dropping. Jonathan Ashworth MP
“Given these allegations the Tory party should take immediate steps to suspend Mr Amin from membership.
“What’s more the Tory party must also investigate who else might have been involved.”