The Shahid Malik libel trial, which I blogged here, has opened.
"Britain's first Muslim Government minister has launched a libel battle in the High Court over claims that he organised "gangs of Asian thugs" to intimidate voters in a local election. International Development Minister Shahid Malik is said to have "overseen and directed" up to 200 Asian Labour activists to help secure victory for a Muslim councillor.
Former Conservative councillor Jonathan Scott made the allegations in a letter to the Dewsbury Press newspaper after he was unseated as a local councillor. It describes how "Malik's ethnic entourage behaved no better than BNP thugs" on polling day in the Dewsbury South ward of Kirklees Council. The letter went on to claim that, "Malik convinced local Asian voters to vote for Labour candidates... on the grounds that those candidates were 'Muslim brothers'".
Malik said the letter was "his worst nightmare", and added: "In my line of work, if your integrity is damaged you have nothing left. "
Malik's lawyer Adam Wolanksi said the allegations were untrue and caused the 39-year-old MP for Dewsbury to be seen as "a racist and dangerous extremist who is unfit to hold public office"."
And Nigel "Enoch" Hastilow's contituency association has refused to accept his resignation. But he's doing the decent thing.
The former newspaper editor, who maintains his original comments were not racist, said: "I am very grateful for all the support I have received from my friends in the Halesowen and Rowley Regis constituency. Their backing has meant a great deal to me. However, I have no wish to be responsible for the constituency association finding itself at odds with the Conservative Party nationally. If an accommodation can be reached, then I would be delighted. But that is for others to determine. The constituency association must make its decisions in the best interests of the party locally and nationally. Halesowen and Rowley Regis is a crucial marginal constituency and what matters most is ensuring General Election victory here for the Conservative Party."
There's no way Cameron will compromise on this one, and no way Hastilow will embarrass him by clinging on. The constituency will have to either knuckle under or go it alone without him. We shall see.