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British MP sorry over claims of secret by-election plan

A British lawmaker in charge of his Conservative Party's by-election campaign apologised on Tuesday after he was apparently caught backing a rival in order to put pressure on the wind-power industry.

In secretly-filmed footage leaked to the Guardian, Chris Heaton-Harris said his friend and Daily Telegraph columnist James Delingpole would signal his intention to run in the Corby by-election as part of a "strategy" against wind farms.

"There's a bit of strategy behind what's going on," the campaign manager for the central England seat told a Greenpeace activist posing as a wind-power opponent.

"I'm running the Corby by-election for the Tories... And Delingpole, who is my constituent, and a very good friend... put his head above the parapet but won't put his deposit down... It's just part of the plan.

"Please don't tell anybody ever. But he will not be putting his deposit down. He just did it because it's a long campaign, it's six weeks to cause some hassle and get, and get people talking," he added.

Delingpole withdrew from the race two weeks ago.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Heaton-Harris said: "The quotes attributed to me range from factually correct statements to me bragging about things beyond my control, which has so often before been the failing of politicians.

"The implication that I choreographed any sort of 'secret plan' is simply not the case and I apologise if that is the impression given.

"It can hardly be said that my wanting to 'put this on the agenda' is new. I have spent years fighting on-shore wind, getting over 100 MPs to sign a letter to the Prime Minister, securing debates and raising questions in Parliament and touring the country speaking to anti-wind groups.

"It is a subject I am passionate about and will continue to work on until communities across my constituency, Northamptonshire (central England) and the country have the protection they deserve."

Labour lawmaker Michael Dugher said it was "astonishing that a Conservative MP appears to have encouraged a rival candidate to run in a by-election in order to campaign against windfarms."

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