It reads like a storyline lifted straight from an episode of Netflix Original series, House Of Cards, but instead, this drama is playing out across the U.K. news media. It began with the often controversial Mail On Sunday, which published video and voice recordings of Conservative Party election candidate Afzal Amin, apparently colluding with representatives from the extreme far-right group, the English Defence League, to win votes by stirring racial tensions in the marginal seat of Dudley.
The plan, as revealed by the recordings, would have seen the EDL announce a march protesting the development of a “mega-mosque” in the region, only to have Afzal Amin heroically defuse the staged situation and create an image of being the candidate that promotes community cohesion. This plan was intended to sway voters in favor of Amin in the General Election – due to take place on May 7, 2015.
The conversations recorded are said to have taken place on March 16 and March 18 – between candidate Afzal Amin, Tommy Robinson (the former leader of the EDL), and current EDL chairperson, Steve Eddowes. The subjects discussed, besides the plan itself, included payments to EDL operatives and the promise of ongoing influence in U.K. Parliament in the event of Amin’s election.
“This is my fantasy. My idea is this – I’ve discussed it with Tommy and lots of others – if I could demonstrate to the people of Dudley that I can be a positive voice for community cohesion, 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.”
“We have a second meeting where things are a bit calmer. Then a third one, we have a press conference… That will bring the English Defence League out of the shadows and into the mainstream political debate… And if I win my election in Parliament, you’ve got a very strong, unshakeable ally who is going to work hard to get you involved in all the institutions of the State.”
Following the publication of the claims and associated recordings, the Conservative Party – which currently governs the U.K. in coalition with the Liberal Democrat Party – moved quickly to take decisive action against Afzal Amin. The Party Chairperson, Grant Shapps, convened an emergency meeting on the evening of Friday March 21st, and a Conservative Party spokesperson then relayed the outcome to the press.
“Following an emergency meeting, it has been decided to suspend him [Amin] as a candidate with immediate effect. The Conservative Party views this as a matter of extremely serious concern.”
The plot continued to thicken, however, as Afzal Amin responded to The Independent On Sunday, suggesting that his communications with the EDL were genuine attempts at diplomacy on his part, while the actions of Tommy Robinson and the EDL amounted to calculated “sting operation“, undertaken for profit.
“The Mail On Sunday have provided small snippets of over 57 hours of meetings between members of the Dudley Muslim community, the leadership of the EDL, Tommy Robinson and me. For the past year, I have been undertaking discussions with Tommy Robinson and more recently with the leadership of the EDL to prevent further inter-communal tensions and violence. I recognised that there was an opportunity to promote better community cohesion between various communities in Dudley and that this may serve as a model for further dispute resolution in other towns and cities.”
“The EDL marched in Dudley in February 2015, despite our best efforts to stop this. The march cost U.K taxpayers £1 million and there was no way that I wanted this to happen again. I continued my engagement with Tommy Robinson to prevent another March.”
“It’s a shame that it seems Tommy Robinson has been seduced by money to launch this attack on me. He is a convicted fraudster and has a salacious appetite for money, which has seen him snub a real job and opt for the spreading of hatred during his long, one year sting operation.”
Defence Minister Anna Soubry reacted to the allegations against Afzal Amin during The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 on Sunday March 22.
“He is at the moment denying this. He has been suspended. What I would say is I would appeal if there is any truth in this – to him – then go now, hold your head up. Obviously if this is right this is dreadful. The EDL is the most appalling organisation. It doesn’t matter which party you are. Anybody who engages in that sort of shenanigans doesn’t do anybody any credit.”
The Guardian indicates that Afzal Amin will be required to explain his actions at a meeting on Tuesday March 24th – a hearing that could well reveal further twists in an already scandalous General Election tale.
[Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images]