The constituency of Thurrock is going to be a tough battle in the build up to May. It has become a three-way marginal, with Ukip polling top and Labour scrabbling to beat it to unseating the Conservative MP, Jackie Doyle-Price, who has a majority of just 92 votes.
Perhaps in this messy political tangle, dirty campaigning is only to be expected. And indeed, the Conservatives in Thurrock have been accused of “incredibly cheap” tactics, by sending round a leaflet calling the Ukip candidate in the seat, Tim Aker, by his little-used full Turkish name, “Timür Aker”. This is thought to be an incendiary move, considering the sensitive immigration concerns pervading the constituency.
“We feel it pretty sad that they’ve sunk to such depths,” a Ukip source close to Aker tells me.
The Guardian has tweeted a picture of the leaflet, which also includes pictures of the radical clerics Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza:
— The Guardian (@guardian) December 2, 2014
Tim Aker, who is also an MEP for the southeast and Ukip’s Policy Unit chief, is quoted in the Guardian giving his reaction to the leaflet:
I think they are just getting desperate. They will find anything. It is incredibly cheap of them. But freedom of speech is what it is and the public will judge them on it.
I am not calling on them to stop using the leaflet. They can carry on doing what they do. I am not going to try and stifle their rights to freedom of speech. But they have got to bear the responsibility for it.
Aker, whose father is Turkish, began to shorten his name to “Tim” when he was at school. His name is very rarely written in full, which is why it is thought to be a pointed move by the Tories on their campaign literature. However, Doyle-Price told the Telegraph that she does not consider this a “big deal”. Although she admitted it was “childish”, she said:
Frankly, I don’t consider this a big deal at all . . .
If I’m honest with you I think by referring to his Turkish heritage we’ve actually given him credibility because frankly having roots from overseas is nothing to be ashamed of. Actually they are something to be proud of.
What we’ve done is actually broadcast the fact that Tim is just as much a citizen with diverse roots as anybody else in this country. It’s probably going to do him a favour.