Anti-racism group uncovers Islamophobic social media posts by UK election candidates

Hope Not Hate condemns 'bigoted and unpleasant characters' before local polls

The UK's ruling Conservative Party is behind the opposition Labour Party in the polls ahead of local elections. AFP
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A UK anti-racism campaign group has called five local election candidates "bigoted and unpleasant" after uncovering Islamophobic comments made to voters and on social media.

Hope Not Hate found posts that criticised the wearing of the hijab and described Islam as a “death cult”.

The candidates – four in London and one in the northern English city of Newcastle – are listed as standing in UK local elections on Thursday.

One of the "troubling" candidates identified by Hope Not Hate is John Moss, a sitting councillor and candidate in Chingford, East London.

He was suspended by the ruling Conservative Party in June 2019 after it was revealed he posted a string of Islamophobic messages on Twitter, including one in which he referred to Islam as a “death cult”.

I​​​​n another post he said "an 'Islamophobe' is by definition somebody frightened of Muslims. Maybe we should nominate every 11 year old girl?”

Gregory Davis, a researcher at Hope Not Hate, condemned Mr Moss over the tweets.

"Despite promising to apologise to his local mosque as a condition of his suspension being lifted, it was later revealed that he had in fact sent a local campaigner to apologise on his behalf and did not make any effort to contact them himself," Mr Davis said.

"While he has deleted the highlighted posts, there are a number of alarming tweets still visible on his profile, including repeated calls for the 'carpet bombing' of civilian areas occupied by ISIS in Syria and Nigeria, as well as a racist statement about native Americans."

Another Conservative councillor, Stephen Savva, is due to stand in the Enfield area of north London.

He has posted tweets that called for "the removal of all immigrants" and urged people coming to the UK from abroad to "stop dressing funny".

He has been suspended by the party following the investigation by Hope Not Hate, but will still appear on ballot papers on Thursday.

In one tweet, Mr Savva said 2015 Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain “wouldn’t suffer any [Islamophobic] abuse” if she “integrated more” and did not wear a hijab.

In another he said: "How about the removal of all immigrants? Wouldn't that be wonderful? Just think of all the homes that would suddenly become available? All those school places?"

The Enfield North Conservative Association said it took "reports such as these extremely seriously".

Another candidate in Enfield, Chris Joannides, has also previously been suspended by the party over a social media post.

"He was suspended for a Facebook post that likened people who wear the burqa to bags of rubbish," Mr Davis said.

"His response was to reject the allegations as a 'smear' and refer to the posts in question as 'blokish banter'.”

Joyce McCarty, a sitting councillor in Newcastle for the opposition Labour Party, will appear on the ballot despite being suspended over allegations of Islamophobia. He accused fellow councillors of being part of a “Muslim plot” to deselect a fellow councillor and made threats of retaliation.

Meanwhile, David Dean is a Conservative candidate in the south-west London seat of Merton despite previously being suspended by the party after he was accused of making an inappropriate comment to a voter.

"He was suspended from the Conservative Party in May 2016 due to comments he made while campaigning on behalf of Zac Goldsmith," Mr Davis said.

"He allegedly told a voter that 'as a white man, [London Mayor Sadiq Khan] would treat him like dirt' and that 'he’d be a pariah in his own town'.

Mr Dean did not deny making the comments, but dismissed them as “a bit of banter” that was “taken out of context”.

"In January 2017, a party spokesperson apparently announced that Cllr Dean had been expelled from the party, yet just three months later he was back on Merton Council’s Conservative group and has been re-selected to stand in this year’s local elections," Mr Davis said.

The Conservatives currently trail Labour by about six points ahead of the local polls.

The vote comes as the Conservatives deal with the effects of the pandemic and the "partygate" scandal, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson was found to have breached lockdown rules, and the rising cost of living.

Labour is on course to be the biggest winner from an anticipated drop in support for Mr Johnson’s party.

Updated: May 06, 2022, 8:21 AM