Christian Tory candidate doctored asylum photos - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
April 12, 2005

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Christian Tory candidate doctored asylum photos


A Christian and Conservative candidate has become embroiled in controversy and acused of using asylum seekers for political gain, after admitting that he doctored photographs in his campaign literature to emphasise his partyís tough stance on immigration.

The candidate for Dorset South, Ed Matts, who describes himself as a "committed Christian", is pictured on the front page of today's Times newspaper twice, under the headline "Spot the Difference".

The Times has revealed that a picture in the Tory candidate's literature showing him and Ann Widdecombe, a catholic and former Shadow Home Secretary, holding placards bearing a tough message about immigration, were falsified.

Mr Matts had previously joined a campaign in Weymouth against the deportation of Verah Kachepa, a Malawian asylum-seeker, and her four children.

The original picture, published in the Dorset Echo last month, shows Mr Matts holding a photograph of her family during a demonstration. Mr Matts placard showed a picture of the asylum seeker. Miss Widdecombeís placard says: ìLet them stay.î

However, in the photos used in election literature, Mr Matts placard has been changed to a sign saying "controlled immigration" and Ann Widdecombe's placard has been changed to carry the message; "Not Chaos and inhumanity".

Mr Matts initially claimed that there had been two photographs but later conceded that he had changed the message on the placards and airbrushed out other protesters.

He said that the message had been generalised to reflect Conservative policy which would limit immigration and asylum, while allowing people to stay if they make a genuine contribution to the economy. ìI donít think there is anything wrong with what Iím doing,î he said.

Ed Matts is described in his official conservative biography as "a committed Christian with a strong sense of community and fun." He has also been a Church Treasurer.

Mr Matts was involved in controversy two years ago when leaked e-mails showed that he was co-ordinating attempts to join ìdisruptive direct action blockadesî against government plans for an asylum accommodation centre in the constituency.

On this morning's BBC Today Programme Oliver Letwin MP suggsted that the two sets of pictures were "entirely compatible" with one another.

However Mrs Kachepa, 44, condemned Mr Mattsís manipulation of photographs last night. ìItís disgraceful,î she said. ìIím not happy and I wouldnít be surprised if people think heís doing that because of the election. I donít want to be a tool for campaigning. I feel that Iím being used.î

This is not the first time the candidate has become emboiled in controversy over asylum. Mr Matts campaigned against a centre for asylum seekers that the government wanted to build in the local area. However in a leaked email he suggested using "a possible red herring" to manipulate the local media.

In his email he said although the local council had denied that they have been secretly briefed by the Home Office on its plan, this shouldn't stop them running the story. "This doesn't stop us raising this possibility to strengthen the impression the government is being underhand," he wrote, going on to say they should be prepared to take part in blockades.

"I am not a great fan of disruptive direct action as it only hurts the innocent but we may find it difficult not to take part or sanction," he says, before warning the recipients of his email to be careful because: "one out of context quote can steal headlines, divert the issue and do a lot of damage."

Churches have recently warned that asylum seekers and immigrants should not be treated by politicians as political footballs.

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