Local Tories campaign for MP who backed Powell

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Indy Politics

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor

David Cameron is facing a grassroots rebellion over his decision to force the resignation of a Tory parliamentary candidate who declared that Enoch Powell was right on immigration.

Some Tories in Halesowen and Rowley Regis want Nigel Hastilow to remain their candidate at the next election even though the party's national leadership demanded he quit after refusing to apologise for his outspoken remarks.

The local Tory association has yet to accept the decision and Mary Docker, the chairman, said its executive committee would discuss the issue on Monday.

Ken Turner, a local Tory councillor, urged Tory HQ in London to reverse its ruling. "We must realise that the majority of people in this country of all colours, creeds and races agree that we should not become over-populated and we should have controls on immigration," he said. "The party has made a mistake here."

Mr Hastilow still describes himself as the party's prospective candidate on his website. But a Tory spokesman said: "Mr Hastilow has resigned and has made it clear that his decision is final."

Labour seized on the continuing row as evidence that Mr Cameron's softer line on immigration was not shared by his party.

Peter Hain, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said: "This situation has only arisen because David Cameron was so weak and unprincipled in failing to sack Mr Hastilow immediately or even condemn his words. For all his PR and rhetoric, he is too weak to change the grassroots of his party."

Today Mr Cameron will make another raid into Labour's traditional territory by announcing the setting up of a Conservative Co-operative Movement. He will argue in a speech in Manchester that co-operatives are in tune with his aims for "social responsibility". The new group will publish plans for co-operatives to set up schools, food co-ops for local farmers and welfare projects.

The Tory leader will say: "The co-operative model represents an enormously exciting possibility for public service reform."