Tories chewed up by `cheese sleaze'

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AS POLITICAL scandals go it is hardly up there with "cash for questions", "arms to Iraq" or the Profumo affair, but the Tories in Wales are none the less getting mighty exercised about cheese sandwiches.

Claims of "cheese sleaze" have been made after it emerged that Plaid Cymru offered voters a cup of tea and a sandwich at an agricultural show, just days before a local council by-election. Yesterday's result was a resounding victory for the Welsh nationalists.

The scandal might have passed the Conservatives by, but for a letter that appeared in the local paper from a voter called Clem English, thanking Plaid Cymru for "the lovely cup of tea, cheese and ham sandwiches which they had provided free at Bedwelty show".

Peter Davies, the chairman of South East Wales Conservatives, said the Plaid Cymru candidate, Darren Jones, was guilty of a "very serious breach of election law", and the party was planning to report him to the returning officer for Caerphilly Borough Council and to the police for corruption. "It is quite clear in the law that offering out drink and `meats' to electors in order to influence the vote for or against the candidate is a corrupt practice for which someone can be fined or disbarred from voting or standing in elections and we intend to pursue the matter," Mr Davies said.

"If it had just been a cup of tea or coffee we probably wouldn't have done anything but when it comes to sandwiches it is the thin end of the wedge."

Mr Jones, who won the by-election by 780 votes to Labour's 455, said the Tories, who gained only 166 votes, were making fools of themselves.

Mrs English, who sparked the controversy, added: "The sandwiches were very nice but they didn't influence my vote. If the Tories had been offering chocolate cake I would have eaten it but I still wouldn't have voted for them."