Tory chairman Brandon Lewis rejects calls to re-suspend councillor amid racism storm
Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis has batted away calls to suspend a Tory councillor who was readmitted to the party at the local elections after sharing a racist joke.
Ex-mayor Rosemary Carroll was welcomed back into the Conservative fold on Friday after being forced to stand down three months ago for sharing a Facebook post which compared an Asian person to a dog.
The re-instatement meant the Tories could win control of Pendle Council in Lancashire by just one seat, sparking fury from Labour.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell this morning urged Theresa May to personally intervene and kick the controversial councillor out.
“To have the Conservative Party take control of the Council by reinstating a councillor who used the foulest racist joke is unacceptable,” the Labour frontbencher told the BBC.
But while Tory chair Brandon Lewis said that the message shared by Ms Carroll had been “completely unacceptable”, he argued that she had already served her punishment for posting it.
He told Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “This was a situation that occurred last year, actually, in June last year. Her position has been from the very beginning that she accidentally posted something she wanted to delete. She was suspended by the party at that point – for three months.
“The Labour-run council - which was of course supported by the BNP at the time - put a punishment in place. She’s also gone through diversity training since then and has been a Conservative councillor for some time.”
Mr Lewis, who has been a fierce critic of Labour’s response to claims of anti-Semitism, also denied that the Tories were guilty of double standards for failing to take action against the councillor, saying there was “a big contrast between where we are and where Labour are”.
He said: “This is a councillor who has gone through punishment and training over it. But also when we have these issues we deal with them. She’s a good example of that. It was dealt with at the time.”
While the senior Conservative revealed he would be looking into Ms Carroll’s case, he refused to be drawn on whether she should be kicked out of the party.
“I’m not going to pre-judge any kind of due diligence work,” he said. “It’s right that we go through this properly – but I also again want to stress this was dealt with again last year.”
But that view appeared to put him at odds with Business Secretary Greg Clark, who hinted on the Andrew Marr show this morning that he believed Ms Carroll’s post meant she should no longer be representing the Tories.
“I have read reports of it, and it seems to me that if they are the views of this person then she has no place in the Conservative party,” he said.
“I am sure the party authorities are investigating that.” The frontbencher added: “I haven’t seen the evidence, but I have read the reports of it, and if they are her views then they are incompatible with the Conservative party.”