A Conservative county councillor representing Ramsgate has now admitted that social media posts branded Islamophobic were written by him.
Paul Messenger has been suspended from the Tory Party pending an investigation over the posts, said to have been made in 2013/2014.
The investigation means he is no longer eligible to stand in the May local elections for the party.
Posts that were highlighted include one that says: “Let’s not fool ourselves here; The Muslim Communities living in Britain would like to see the whole country Muslim. Whether this is achieved by violent or stealth – they would prefer this – it’s natural and you could argue within their rights to do this.
“After some considerable thought I have come up with this suggestion – given that MI5 have to commit considerable resources Into the protection and prevention of ‘home grown’ Islamic threat far more than when the IRA were doing their worst to us, then I believe the peaceful British Islamic Society should pay for this extra cost.”
Yesterday Cllr Messenger said he “expressly denied” writing the posts but today he made a U Turn and admitted they were his.
In an apology issued this morning he said: “I want to apologise unreservedly for the historic Islamophobia that I put up on social media. They are no longer my views and never should have been my views in the first place.
“The posts are repellent and ignorant. And they are just the kind of views extreme Right-Wing views I campaigned against so hard in the 2016 referendum. I don’t believe anyone’s ethnicity or religion should ever be used for political purposes. Or to question anyone’s full inclusion in British society and culture.
“So, it is absolutely unforgiveable that I didn’t delete these posts from my timeline. And it is equally unforgiveable that I didn’t publicly refute them. I do so now.
“But, over and above this general apology, I need to say sorry to two groups of people in particular. First, the Muslim community of the UK. Any of you who have met me since I became a KCC councillor will know I respect your religion and I respect each and every one of you as individuals. So, I hope the Muslim community will grant me the privilege of apologising to you directly for my previously abhorrent views.
“I also need to apologise to the Conservative Associations of Thanet. I have brought our party into disrepute. So, I fully accept my suspension and any further disciplinary action which may follow. And, of course, I am standing down as a candidate for TDC councillor in Margate Central with immediate effect.
“On a more personal note, I am mortified by the offence and distress I have caused. To my friends, to my family and especially to my wife. I hope to earn their forgiveness. And to show them and everyone else in Thanet who I am now: a liberal, One-Nation Conservative who thinks any kind of Islamophobia or even the slightest anti-Muslim prejudice has no place in our party, our community or our country. “
Call for expulsion
Kent Anti-Racism Network (KARN) is calling for Mr Messenger to be expelled from the party.
A KARN spokesperson said: “Views such as those expressed by Paul Messenger cannot be tolerated, and we are calling on local people to write to the South and North Thanet Conservative Associations to demand Paul Messenger’s resignation.”
Labour county councillor Karen Constantine branded the posts as “Islamaphobic, racist and utterly deplorable,” saying Mr Messenger should now ‘consider his suitability for office.”
She added: “It seems his late admission of ‘guilt’ and fulsome apology has been only been prompted by irrefutable evidence that he did make these repugnant statements. That also is a serious error of judgement. I would urge him again to consider his suitability for public office and to reflect on the Nolan principles.”
A North Thanet Conservative Association said the organisation “ is aware of this complaint and the matter is being fully investigated.”
Cllr Messenger will not be standing down from his role at county council. He will remain as an Independent. He will not be allowed to take part in any Conservative member meetings, or use their facilities.