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Tory candidate calls racist Rhodesian leader 'a hero'

Calls for Conservative leader to condemn prospective North Ayrshire and Arran MP

DAVID Cameron has been called on to condemn a Scottish Conservative candidate who praised the racist former leader of Rhodesia and defended Enoch Powell.

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Philip Lardner, the party's Westminster candidate in North Ayrshire and Arran, named Ian Smith, who was regarded a white supremacist, as his political hero. He also said that Powell's far-right warnings about immigration had "in a small way come true".

Cameron has made it clear since becoming Tory leader that he will not tolerate extremism from party candidates.

Nigel Hastilow stood down as a candidate for Halesowen & Rowley Regis last year after claiming many people thought the late Enoch Powell "was right" to warn about immigration in his 1968 "rivers of blood" speech.

Now Lardner has increased the pressure on Cameron by reeling off his list of idols on a Conservative website.

Asked to name his political hero, Lardner is quoted as saying: "Maybe Ian Smith (Rhodesia), Sir Francis Drake, Sir Winston Churchill or Maggie, who knows?"

Smith, after issuing a unilateral declaration of independence from the UK in 1965, served as the prime minister of Rhodesia until 1979 as part of white minority rule.

He presided over a regime where whites comprised around 5% of the population, but mustered 95% of the votes in national elections.

His 14 years in charge were marked by civil war, economic sanctions and international condemnation, a spell that ushered in the election of Robert Mugabe as prime minister of the renamed Zimbabwe in 1980.

Smith died in November last year.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald, Lardner, a primary school teacher, expanded on his views.

"Ian Smith typified a British hero who came from the Empire and fought for his country. I met him in 1998 and got to shake his hand. I am confident Ian Smith was a good man. You stand by your friends."

Asked whether he considered Smith to be racist, Lardner said: "He brokered several deals for gradual change to majority rule."

The 41-year-old Scot also attacked immigration to the UK: "There are 400 million people in the EU who now have the legal right to settle in Britain. I don't understand how any sovereign country can cope with that. It doesn't make sense to flood a small island with people."

On Powell, who was sacked from the Tory shadow cabinet in 1968 for an anti-immigration speech, Larnder said: "Essentially, what Enoch Powell said has in a small way come true."

The Scottish Tory candidate is also a member of Better Off Out, an anti-EU organisation, and the Rhodesian Christian Group.

On the late Conservative prime minister Edward Heath, who negotiated the UK's entry into the European Economic Community in the early-1970s, Lardner said: "Edward Heath was a Tory but to me he was a rat. He lied about the EEC in terms of its effect on sovereignty."

His interest in Rhodesian politics first became evident in a letter published in the Herald in 2005, in which he stated: "Take a look at Zimbabwe or a dozen other human-induced African disasters and ask yourself whether the average African would rather be living (or more often than not dying) at the hands of his "free" African brothers, or have a Royal Navy warship sitting benevolently in the harbour?"

A Tory candidate at last year's Holyrood poll, he is contesting the North Ayrshire and Arran seat for the Conservatives at the next general election Scotland Office Minister David Cairns said: "These comments are utterly disgraceful. Talk of flooding is highly inflammatory and David Cameron must immediately and publicly disown the words of his official candidate in North Ayrshire.

"At a time of acute sensitivity in Zimbabwe, for an official Tory spokesperson to invoke the language of Empire plays right into the disreputable hands of Robert Mugabe."

Katy Clark, Labour MP for Ayrshire North and Arran, said: "Ian Smith was a supporter of white supremacy and worked hard to try to stop black people getting the vote. I hope these comments will make North Ayrshire and Arran Conservative Party reassess whether this man is a fit person to be their candidate at the next general election."

A spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats said: "Mr Lardner's comments are as wrong as they are outrageous. There is no way that views like this have a place in modern Scotland, and the Scottish Conservatives must distance themselves from him and his views."

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