|Will the real Ed Matts stand up
Labour could barely contain their glee after Conservative candidate for Dorset South, Ed Matts, doctored an image to present a more hardline stance on immigration.
Labour demanded that Tory leader Michael Howard sack Matts, who they accused of being “deceitful.”
The original photo featured Matts holding up a picture of Verah Kachepa and her four children who were facing being returned to Malawi.
Beside him former Tory prisons minister Ann Widdicombe held up a placard demanding “Let Them Stay.” But the message took a sharp right-turn when Matts published his campaign literature.
His placard now carried the Tories election slogan “Controlled Immigration”, while Widdicombe's banner ironically read: “Not Chaos and Inhumanity.”
Fellow protestors campaigning for the asylum seeker and her family were erased from the photograph.
Tory shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin told BBC radio 4's Today programme that Matt's picture was not incompatible with Conservative policy.
But Karen Chouhan, chief executive of The 1990 Trust, called on Howard to clarify exactly which photo chimed with their policies.
She said: “They are very different in tone. One implies compassion towards real individuals fleeing persecution, while the other implies a message of keep them out.
|Michael Howard launches his manifesto yesterday
“If both are compatible Michael Howard should make another speech to explain how and why.
“He's made plenty of speeches on immigration and asylum recently – another one won't hurt.”
Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, added: “This is duplicitous hypocricy at its' worst. Ed Matts is speaking from both sides of his mouth.
“A more sackable offence it will be difficult to find. Michael Howard says 'what you see is what you get.' He needs to respond to this hypocracy.”
Tory opponents contrasted Howard's support for Matts with the sacking of Howard Flight as a candidate after he was secretly recorded hinting that the Tories in government may have room to make greater cuts in public services than they publicaly admitted.
Health Secretary John Reid said if Howard failed to sack Matts as a candidate, he would be sending out a message to other candidates that they can “do anything they like to fuel a wholly negative campaign”.
He added: “To pose in one picture in support of an asylum seeker, and then doctor the same picture for a political stunt is sick. Mr Matts is a disgrace to Dorset, a disgrace to politics, and would be a disgrace to Parliament if he were ever elected.”