A furious political row erupted this week when two Islamic pressure groups distributed hundreds of leaflets to voters in the West Watford area.

The leaflets, which endorse Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Sal Brinton, have been angrily condemned by her main political rivals.

Produced by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee and British Muslim Initiative, the leaflets condemned Labour MP Claire Ward and Conservative Richard Harrington for their alleged weakness on Islamic issues.

Both candidates have accused their Liberal Democrat opponent of dirty tricks.

Ms Brinton, however, has denied authorising the leaflets and accused her rivals of desperation.

Ms Ward, who is criticised in the leaflets for her alleged questioning of women’s rights to wear the veil, her alleged vote against an Iraq War inquiry, and pro Israeli voting record, claimed the leaflets were delivered by known Liberal Democrat activists.

She said: “It is a desperate and a shameful way to behave. The claims are simply not true at all. They are just trying to scare people.”

Ms Ward has suggested that she favours the removal of facial coverings in one-to-one meetings but said this admission fell well short of the leaflet claims that she “questions women wearing the veil”.

Mr Harrington, meanwhile, said he was “disappointed” that his former chairmanship of the Conservative Friends of Israel had been raised as a negative issue.

He said: “Anybody who knows me will know my very moderate views on the Middle East. “I had hoped for a higher standard of morality in this campaign.”

He too claimed the leaflets were distributed by his Liberal Democrat rivals.

Ms Brinton, however, said she had “not authorised” either of the leaflets. If, she added, any Liberal Democrat activists had helped deliver them they had done so by their own initiative.

She added: “These groups are choosing to support different candidates from different parties all over the country. Pressure groups are free to support what candidates they like. If Claire Ward has an issue with these leaflets then she needs to take them up with the organisation that produced them.

“I think this really shows the desperation of the other parties.”