Tory hopeful quits over rally claim
A would-be Conservative MP has resigned as the party's candidate in the May 7 general election after being accused of attempting to stage-manage a far-right rally in order to boost his electoral chances.
Afzal Amin, who was filmed in discussions with former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, initially said he would fight the allegations in the hope of staying on as parliamentary candidate in the Tory target seat of Dudley North.
But party sources said he had resigned as candidate "with immediate effect", a day ahead of a planned disciplinary hearing.
The Conservatives will now move "swiftly" to appoint a new candidate, who must be in place by the time nominations close on April 9, a source said.
A Conservative spokesman said: "Afzal Amin is resigning as Conservative candidate for Dudley North with immediate effect.
"Conservative Chairman Grant Shapps has welcomed Mr Amin's decision and thanked him for his work in the past."
Mr Amin was accused of scheming with the EDL to announce an inflammatory march against a new "mega-mosque" in Dudley and then take the credit for defusing the tensions.
The would-be MP was reportedly filmed by former EDL leader Mr Robinson, who blew the whistle on the plot because he objected to being used as a pawn.
He had been due to defend his actions at a Conservative disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, but following his resignation this will not now take place.
The candidate, said to have been described on his Tory Party website as a former Army education officer to the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, outlined his plan to Mr Robinson and current EDL chairman Steve Eddowes at an Indian restaurant in Birmingham.
The Mail On Sunday reported that the 40-year-old allegedly suggested EDL members could be paid to canvass on his behalf, and floated the idea of a phoney protest - just weeks after a real demonstration in Dudley by 600 EDL supporters led to 30 arrests.
Speaking before his resignation, Mr Amin told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme what was suggested was "very normal conflict resolution, confidence-building measures".
"If people do announce that they are going to do an action, and other people disagree with it, then they sit together and they resolve their differences and the action is then stopped; then this helps the communities feel that 'Yes, on the other side there is a working partner we can work with'.
"That's what we were trying to stage-manage."
He insisted that the second march was proposed by Mr Robinson in a meeting at the Toby Carvery in Dudley.
"There is no way that I would have the confidence to propose such a manoeuvre to the EDL leadership.
"He is the one that proposed, absolutely, that we would do this march and then we would negotiate a way out of it.
"When he first came to me he presented himself in tears, saying that he wanted to see an improved Britain.
"I didn't realise this was the start of a year-long sting operation. That's really what I've been subject to here."
Labour's Ian Austin held Dudley North with a majority of just 649 in 2010 and the surprise loss of their candidate represents a setback for Conservative hopes of snatching the seat.
Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth said: "It's right that Afzal Amin has gone but what on earth took so long? Given the serious allegations involved it was obvious that David Cameron should have expelled him immediately. Instead he dithered until the candidate himself jumped before he was pushed.
"This deeply damaging episode has exposed a Conservative campaign in chaos and a Prime Minister paralysed by indecision."