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A Tory councillor has been suspended from the party and is under investigation after it emerged he previously attended two far-right events.
Andy Weatherhead, who represents Hythe West on Kent county council, is being investigated by the Tory party chair, Nadhim Zahawi after anti-racist campaigners Hope Not Hate said he attended rallies organised by fascist group New British Union (NBU), before he joined the Tories.
According to a report in The Guardian, the group claim he was a senior member of the group and delivered a speech at its inaugural conference in 2013. Weatherhead denies these claims. He was also pictured wearing blackshirt attire, seen as a fascist symbol, that same year at a rally outside the Greek embassy in London alongside Golden Dawn supporters.
The Kent Conservative party whip, Dylan Jeffrey, said Weatherhead joined the party in 2018 and had been subject to background checks that did not reveal his previous associations with the NBU.
“It is difficult because he changed his name, so there was no digital footprint,” Jeffrey told the Guardian. “I knew he had stood for Ukip but all of this [regarding connections to the NBU] was out of the blue. There is no place for anyone in our party for people with the type of views associated with the NBU.”
He added: “He has been suspended by the national party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi, and they will conduct an investigation.”Weatherhead has apologised and claimed he attended two events “in the spirit of education and curiosity”.
Weatherhead, who works as an administrative officer, denied claims that he was a senior member of the NBU but admitted he went to two NBU events. He also denied further allegations that he posted antisemetic content online.
“I completely agree that the optic [sic] of these pictures is poor and potentially upsetting for some,” he said in a statement. “For this I can and do sincerely apologise.”
He said his association with the NBU was "brief", adding that he looks back on his actions during that period with "regret and personal disappointment".
But he said "with regard to the report suggested that I used anti semitic language in blogs and alike, this I completely refute".
He claimed if such articles existed, they were not written by him but published under his name without consent.
\u201cTory Councillor Andy Weatherhead: \u2018I completely agree that the optics of these pictures is poor.\u2019\n\nThe pictures:\u201d
Kent County Council leader Roger Gough said: "Further to the allegations made on the Hope not Hate website, earlier this morning the Chief Whip and I took the decision to suspend Andy Weatherhead as a Member of the Conservative Group at Kent County Council with immediate effect.
"We have been in contact with, and have acted in coordination with the national Conservative Party, who will be investigating the matter.
"Without prejudging the investigation, I must emphasise that the abhorrent views and associations described in the article have no place in the Conservative Group at Kent County Council."
indy100 has contacted Weatherhead and the Conservative group at Kent County Council to comment on this story.
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