Labour activist tried to throttle Tory in election row, court told

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The Independent Online

A Labour Party activist kicked, punched and tried to throttle a Tory campaigner during last year's general election campaign, a court heard.

Magistrates were told that David Harding, 48, warned Robert Benham he was "in big trouble" and later set upon him after a dispute about canvassing methods on the final day of campaigning. Mr Benham, 25, a parliamentary assistant to Andrew Rosindell, the MP for Romford, lost consciousness after the attack and was treated for three months for damage to his back and neck, Havering magistrates court in east London was told

The attack happened outside Romford railway station where two rival groups of campaigners had gathered on the afternoon of 4 May last year, Rekha Kodikara, for the prosecution, said. She said Mr Harding, who denies one charge of common assault and one of using abusive words or behaviour, had begun shouting into a loudspeaker that the Tory candidate, Mr Rosindell, had put stickers on the blouses of schoolgirls while campaigning outside a Catholic school. "The words, 'touch these children', were used," Ms Kodikara said. "That raised the tension somewhat between the two parties because quite clearly some members of the Conservative Party took the view that it was being suggested that Mr Rosindell had acted inappropriately."

Shortly after, Ms Kodikara said, Mr Harding returned to the station with two men and came towards Mr Benham. She said: "Mr Benham suddenly felt a punch to the back of his neck and then two hands grabbed his neck."

The case continues.