Afzal Amin and EDL: it wasn't a plot, it was conflict resolution

Star Tory candidate suspended from party after 'hatching cynical plot to make him look good'

WOOLWICH, WEDNESDAY: Members of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) gather in Woolwich following the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby. David Cameron called the attack "sickening". Police had to guard against for backlash attacks on British Muslims.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Conservative election candidate suspended by his party after a Mail on Sunday scoop apparently caught him hatching a plot with the far-right English Defence League designed to make him look good among his potential constituents has denied any deception.

Talking in the past few hours to the BBC in Dubai, Afzal Amin said he had been trying to bring the community together in Dudley North. The Mail on Sunday story, he said, was a “gross misrepresentation” of his efforts.

Here are the two sides to the Afzal Amin story…

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What the Mail on Sunday accuses him of:

Amin can be seen and heard on a secret recording made by EDL founder Tommy Robinson “hatching a scheme” with the extremist group to announce an “inflammatory march” in Dudley North to protest against the opening of a new £18m ‘mega-mosque’.

But the idea was that the demo would never go ahead: the “phoney rally” would be called off just before election day and Amin would take the credit for bringing peace to the community, thus winning over voters and police in the marginal seat.

In return for going along with his “cynical plot”, he promised to be an “unshakeable ally” of the EDL and would help bring their extreme views “into the mainstream” if he was elected to Parliament.

The Mail reports that he “also wanted EDL members to be paid to canvass on his behalf in Dudley” – which is against election law.

The reaction:

Following an emergency meeting, Amin was immediately suspended by the Tory party until a hearing this Tuesday can decide whether he should remain as the party’s candidate in Dudley North.

Most commentators on the Sunday political shows felt it would be hard for him to keep the candidacy: even if he did nothing illegal, his judgment was questionable.

Tory defence minister Anna Soubry told the Andrew Marr Show that if there was any truth in the story Amin should “fess up” and go immediately.

Others said that because the EDL is so far to the right, whatever Amin’s reasons, he should never have sat down with them. Considering he is a Muslim, it was hard to believe.

Tommy Robinson admitted to Andrew Neil, on the Sunday Politics, that it was he who had leaked the film to the Mail on Sunday. He said he did not like being used as a political pawn.

Afzal Amin’s side of the story:

A Muslim, a former Army officer – Afzal Amil was a dream candidate for the 21st century Tory party. He told the BBC correspondent in Dubai (from where he is due to return to the UK on Monday to face the music) that the Mail on Sunday’s allegations were “heart-breaking” – but wrong.

What he had been discussing with the EDL, he said, was an exercise in “conflict resolution” of the kind he had witnessed while on military duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The point was to announce a march that would bring people together to discuss, and through discussions, tensions would be resolved," he told the BBC. "I wanted to see these two communities really learn more about each other through face-to-face discussion.”

He said there was always "a degree of stage management" when you tried to resolve conflict. But he denied any deception: "It was simply a way of building confidence between communities.”

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