Kent County councillor suspended over alleged time with far-right group

Councillor Andy Weatherhead, who represents Hythe West, has apologised for causing any offence.

A Kent County Councillor has been suspended from the Conservative group, and from the national party, over pictures that appear to show him at a rally of the far-right New British Union in 2013.

Councillor Andy Weatherhead, who represents Hythe West, apologised for causing any offence and has said his association with the NBU was brief and "in the spirit of education and curiousity".

The allegations against Cllr Weatherhead were made on the Hope not Hate website on Tuesday (15/11).

The article claimed Cllr Weatherhead was a "senior officer for the openly fascist New British Union (NBU)".

It also alleged that an investigation revealed that he "wrote an antisemitic blog attacking the 'Jewish-controlled media', helped to formulate the avowedly fascist and anti-democracy policies of the NBU and attended a rally in support of the violent Golden Dawn movement."

In a statement, the Association Chairman, Folkestone and Hythe said: "As a result of allegations made on the Hope not Hate website, and in consultation with my fellow Officers, I have taken the decision to suspend Andy Weatherhead as a Member of the Conservative Party with immediate effect.

"In addition, I have coordinated with the Chief Whip / Leader of The Conservative Group at Kent County Council where Cllr Weatherhead has also been suspended as a member with immediate effect.

"These actions have been in collaboration with the National Conservative Party, who will be investigating the matter from the Party Chairman’s Office. 

"Without prejudging the investigation, I must emphasise that the abhorrent images and associations described in the article have no place in the our Association or the Conservative Party. 

"On a personal note, I would like to apologise for any distress caused to our community - we are here to serve and this incident is a reminder how vigilant we all need to be." 

  • Stephen James, Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association:

In a statement, Councillor Andy Weatherhead said: "I became aware of the New British Union whilst undertaking some research on Oswald Mosley’s political concept of “Europe a Nation” back in 2012/2013. At the time I felt that this concept very much echoed the political body that I saw had evolved into the European Union. Therefore, to try and learn more about this political concept, I contacted the then newly created NBU and became aware of their Leader Gary Raikes.

"It is important to note that at the time of my contact, the NBU was not a registered political party and had no defined membership. To the best of my knowledge, the NBU has never been prescribed or outlawed.

"I did attend in person two events – firstly; a group meeting held in Bedfordshire as I recall, which saw others associated with the NBU attending. During this event I did stand and make comment – which was to introduce myself as did all others in the room. Policies were discussed – but in the context of policies written by Oswald Mosley during his political career which spanned many years in both pre and post war Britain.

"The second event I attended was a rally in London, to which I was asked to attend by then associates. On the day and on arrival, I found that the event was being held outside the London Greek Embassy. Unfortunately, due to the heavy police presence that day – as soon as I exited the Taxi, I was “kettled” and advised by the Police that I was unable to leave. I am not aware of any members of the Greek Political Party, Golden Dawn being in attendance.

"With regard to the report suggesting that I used Anti-Semitic language in blogs and alike, this I completely refute. Should such have been published, they were not written by me personally. If such were published under my name – then it was done so without my consent.

"With regard to the pictures taken – I completely agree that the optic of these pictures is poor and potentially upsetting for some.

"For this I can and do sincerely apologise.

"To confirm that in 2018 I reverted to my birth Surname “Weatherhead”.

"In closing – without hesitation I offer my apologies to any person offended. My association with the NBU was brief and made in the spirit of education and curiosity – I however now look back on my actions during that period with regret and personal disappointment in my then poor judgemental choices at that time. By re-entering mainstream politics as I did in 2014, I turned my back on fringe politics, having seen it for what it truly was."