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Widdecombe gets custard pie in the face at bookshop

Anti-racist activists threw a custard pie in Ann Widdecombe's face yesterday in protest at Conservative policy on asylum-seekers.

The shadow Home Secretary was subjected to the attack as she signed copies of her new book in Waterstone's in Oxford, with protesters claiming her party had stirred up racial hatred against refugees.

The pie was hurled in Miss Widdecombe's face at lunch-time while she was autographing The Clematis Tree. Police marshalling a group of about 25 protesters outside the shop on Broad Street made an immediate arrest. Thames Valley Police confirmed that a man, aged 27, and a woman, aged 28, were arrested for public order offences and affray seconds after the attack.

Miss Widdecombe wiped away the custard and continuing with her public book-signing before protesters again entered the shop and continued a tirade of abuse against her. The man who allegedly flung the pie was said by protesters to be "Agent Orange" from the Campsfield High Command of the Biotic Baking Brigade. A statement released from the pressure group after the attack said: "Shadow Home Secretary Ann Widdecombe learnt a valuable lesson in home economics today - that stirring up race hatred is a recipe for getting your just desserts.

"The Conservative Tarty's [sic] local elections manifesto says that Britain is a 'soft touch for the organised asylum racketeers who are flooding the country with bogus asylum- seekers'. Widdecombe has been especially vocal in trying to win votes by playing the race card against refugees and asylum-seekers."

Many of yesterday's protesters were believed to be members of the Close Campsfield Campaign, a pressure group calling for the permanent closure of the detention centre Campsfield House in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, used to house political refugees claiming asylum. But officials at the Close Campsfield Campaign, which has staged many high-profile demonstrations, denied they were involved in yesterday'saction.

The Home Office angrily denied reports that the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, had shaken hands with an asylum- seeker discovered by immigration staff on a lorry in Kent on Tuesday. "Mr Straw is very annoyed. It sends out the wrong message," a Home Office insider said.