MP accuses rivals of using race card

By Ted JeoryA FURIOUS row broke out last night after a Labour MP accused the Conservatives of "outrageously" playing the race card ahead of the local council elections.

By Ted Jeory

A FURIOUS row broke out last night after a Labour MP accused the Conservatives of "outrageously" playing the race card ahead of the local council elections.

Ivan Henderson, the Labour MP for Harwich, said he was "appalled" by a Conservative Party leaflet put out in his Harwich constituency for Thursday's Tendring District Council elections – and compared the Tories to the British National Party.

In the leaflet for the St James ward election, issued by Conservative candidates Chris Griffiths and Gill Downing, the party's Harwich parliamentary spokesman, Douglas Carswell, is quoted as saying "Conservatives will scrap asylum completely".

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Mr Henderson said: "When Theresa May, the Conservative party chair, referred to them as being looked upon as a right wing nasty party, she may well have had the Harwich Conservative Association in mind.

"Their leaflet is more in line with the BNP than the mainstream politics that my constituents are used to."

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When the comments on the leaflet were put to Conservative Central Office, a spokesman clarified the party's full policy, saying it intended to replace the current system with a new one of "rational quotas".

He suggested the lack of space on the leaflet was the reason why the second part of its policy had been omitted and denied it was deliberately emotive or misleading.

Independent candidate for the ward, John Hughes, also entered the debate last night, calling the leaflet "silly" because it was not an issue any local politician could control.

But Mr Carswell, who was the Conservative candidate who stood against Prime Minister Tony Blair in the 2001 General Election, said: "It's a real issue out there on the doorstep.

"We're not stoking any fires or playing any race card. We just didn't have enough space to put everything on the leaflet."

St James ward Conservative candidate Gill Downing added: "The leaflet is really part of Douglas' campaign to become our MP. His face is on our leaflet and we're campaigning on his behalf. I've no argument with what he says."

However, Liberal Democrat councillor Charles Harrison said: "I utterly reject the Tories' views. Nobody leaves their home to travel thousands of miles unless they are in a really desperate situation. It's just a sign of the Tories' desperation."

n There are seven candidates standing for election in the St James ward of Tendring District Council. They are Gloria Bargent (LD), David Bolton (L), Gill Downing (C), Christopher Griffiths (C), Charles Harrison (LD), John Hughes (Ind) and Roy Raby (L).

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