Tory Councillors suspended for Islamophobia now running in 2023 local elections

5/3/2023 11:11 AM

It wasn't so long ago that the controversial case of a Blackpool Councillor, Danny Scott, who was running as a prospective Conservative Party candidate in the Local Elections in 2019 grabbed national headlines as a result of an expose which revealed his shocking racist views. Comments allegedly made by him were published as part of a dossier by anonymous twitter user with the handle @matesjacob and he was reported to have posted Islamophobic comments on his Facebook account including:

 ‘Muslims have been terrorising anyone who isn’t Muslim for 1,000 [years],” and that “it is their quest to turn the world Muslim’

At least five Tory Councillors previously suspended for Islamophobia are running in the 2023 elections

Scott was just one of several Conservative councillors who held such views and referenced them in the public domain. Beverley Dunlop, a Bournemouth Councillor for the Conservative Party, had similarly been happy to post abhorrent racist views within the social media sphere including such language as:

‘Until [Muslims] are more frightened of the British government (because they and their families might get deported) than they are of Isis nothing will change…I hate to ban anything really but I’d suggest we start with mosques!’

An article in the Observer newspaper this week, highlighted the case of five Tory Councillors who will be contesting seats in the May 2023 local elections, all of whom had featured in the dossier as having expressed similar racist and Islamophobic views. These were Lee Mason; Beverley Dunlop; Robin Popley; Danny Scott and Ian Stokes. All five were subject to temporary suspensions by their party, but were subsequently reinstated. The Dossier itself listed 25 former and sitting Tory Councillors who it alleges made similarly offensive comments.

The Director of campaigns at the anti-racist lobby group ‘Hope not Hate’, Georgie Laming, who had been conducting research on this issue, said:

‘There is an alarming trend of Conservative party candidates and councillors who have been exposed for racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and as crank conspiracy theorists. Their vetting and disciplinary systems either don’t work or are inconsistent. All mainstream parties must have a zero tolerance policy. The Conservative Party has a long way to go to prove this’

'they are typically suspended and then quietly reinstated a few months later'

Speaking to the Observer, Mohamed Amin, the former Chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum (who has since torn up his membership of the Conservative Party over Islamophobic comments made by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson), noted the reinstatement of at least 15 party members suspended for racist comments and said:

‘Once the individuals are exposed, they are typically suspended and then quietly reinstated a few months later…Because the party is non-transparent about almost everything, including its disciplinary processes, the public is never told about what re-education the suspended councillors have received, or whether they have given adequate assurances that they have changed their ways’

'..anti-Muslim prejudice had ‘poisoned the party'

In the period leading up to the 2019 exposé, Baroness Warsi had publicly stated that anti-Muslim prejudice had ‘poisoned the party’. The following year in November 2019, as the number of reported Islamophobic cases mounted, the then Prime Minister, Boris Johnson ordered an investigation into how the Conservative party was dealing with accusations of Islamophobia and racism. The Singh Report was published in May 2021 and found that processes for investigating Islamophobia were ‘poor, fell short of basic standards, and are in need of an overhaul’. However, Muslim Council of Britain spokesperson, Mqdaad Versi, while not dismissing the report out of hand completely, was quick to point out that the choice of reviewer by Boris Johnson, was:

‘Somebody who came from a think-tank that devoted an entire anthology to attacking the very idea of Islamophobia’

He went on to ask:

‘Will the party truly acknowledge the scale of Islamophobia within it, despite the denials of the past, and truly apologise for its institutional failings?’

'Islamophobic views were within the membership. Unless that is addressed, reforms to structures and processes will not be enough’

Hope not Hate’s CEO, Nick Lowles responded to the report by saying:

‘For many years, Conservative members and activists have complained of Islamophobia within the party. Those complaints were ignored, dismissed, and belittled. The party’s inaction has caused pain and distress to its Muslim members, and to the wider Muslim community. After years of denials, it is now welcome that the Singh Investigation has found that the party’s processes were poor, fell short of basic standards, and are in need of an overhaul...YouGov polling we commissioned showed how widespread Islamophobic views were within the membership. Unless that is addressed, reforms to structures and processes will not be enough’

In what the Hope not Hate website refers to as an ‘Local Election 2023: Candidate Round –Up’, it points out that the number of radical far-right candidates running in the local elections this year is substantially up on previous years. It suggests that although we have witnessed an historic downturn in the fortunes of far-right parties post the successes of Brexit and a UKIP surge during the European elections, this year’s nominations indicate that there is a strong feeling among those on the far-right, ‘that the recent strife in the Conservative Party and widespread dissatisfaction among voters could represent a window of opportunity.’ 

Far-Right groups attempt to intercept anti-racist campaigners at Waterloo in 2019