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Tory who doctored asylum photos fails to get elected
A Conservative candidate who became embroiled in controversy after he doctored photographs in his campaign literature to emphasise his partyís tough stance on immigration, has failed in his bid to be elected despite a swing to the Conservatives which should have taken him to Westminster.
The candidate for Dorset South, Ed Matts, who described himself in election publicity as a "committed Christian", was featured on the front page of the Times newspaper during the general election campaign.
The Times revealed that a picture in the Tory candidate's literature showing him with Ann Widdecombe holding placards bearing a tough message about immigration, were falsified.
Matts needed to improve the Conservative performance in the 2001 general election by only 150 votes to take the seat from the Labour party. However the Conservative Party's vote compared to 2001 actually fell in the constituency whilst Labour's increased. This was contrary to the national swing which saw Conservatives make significant gains against the Labour party.
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 showed 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.
Churches and church agencies however criticised the Conservatives and others during the election campaign for treating asylum seekers like 'political footballs'.