'I'm not a racist' says councillor expelled from Conservative party over 'Islamophobic' comments
PUBLISHED: 16:32 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:26 01 August 2018
A district and county councillor who allegedly said it was "unbelievable" Sadiq Khan had been elected mayor of London has been expelled from the Conservative party.
Stephen Ardley allegedly posted a comment on Facebook two years ago saying: “I think it’s unbelievable that a Muslim was actually elected the mayor of this great Christian country - oh wait he’s labour so the blind leading the blind just vote red and left.”
After a two-hour long meeting of the Waveney Conservative Association on Monday night, Mr Ardley was expelled from the party by a majority vote of seven to five.
After 18 years as a councillor, 15 years on cabinet, and three times elected Mayor of Lowestot, he will now sit on Waveney District and Suffolk County Council as an independent councillor.
He said he has no present plans to join another party and said he will not appeal the decision.
Mr Ardley criticised the internal process around the complaint, labelled the meeting a “kangaroo court” and said he was not an Islamophobe.
Mr Ardley said: “I didn’t post it as a malicious or racist statement, it was more political when I read it. If you read it is not really Islamophobic. I am not Islamophobic and I am not a racist.
“I have got a half-Indian daughter in law and I am going to Tunisia next year and Turkey this year. If I was Islamophobic I wouldn’t be going to Islamic countries.
He added: “I am disappointed with the Conservative Party with the way they treat people in these circumstances. They seem to care more about their image than they do their councillors.
“I don’t really want to go back to that party if that is the way they are treating councillors.
“I followed what I was advised to do and it was all a waste of time. Why didn’t they make the decision two months ago?
“I think it was a bit of a kangaroo court but I never had a piece of paper relating to the matter apart from an email asking me to attend the meeting yesterday.”
The allegation was sent to Conservative Party chairman and Great Yarmouth MP, Brandon Lewis in June, but Mr Ardley says he has no recollection of posting the comment.
He said: “I can’t remember doing it. If I did say it then obviously I regret saying it and this is what I said to the meeting yesterday, but at least I am man enough to take responsibility.
“I am free of the Conservative whip and I shall now serve with the independent group to do the best for the community and challenge the administration.”
Mark Bee, Conservative leader of Waveney District Council, said: “I think it is deeply regretful that having been a councillor of 20 years, Stephen Ardley, has been expelled from the party and will no longer be serving in the Conservative group of Waveney District Council and Suffolk County Council.
“The decision has been based on the complaint sent to the party chairman Brandon Lewis. The executive council of the Waveney Conservative Association viewed all of the available evidence and also heard from Stephen Ardley and were able to question him.
“After a long discussion and by a narrow margin it was agreed to expel him. The executive council have followed the full procedure as laid down in our constitution.
He added: “Stephen Ardley will have the right of appeal and without wanting to prejudice that in any way there is nothing more that I can say at this present time.”
In a statement, Jean Bowry, chairman of Waveney Conservatives, said: “It was very regretful that this decision has had to be taken, as Stephen Ardley was a long-standing member of almost 20 years.
“He had served as a councillor for most of that time and worked hard for the local party. However, the Conservative Party Chairman, Brandon Lewis, has made it clear that there is a zero tolerance of remarks considered discriminatory.
“Nationally and here in Waveney we must up hold this standard under the Party’s Respect Pledge.”