Portsmouth Conservative councillor reinstated after 12-month suspension for sharing 'undeniably racist' Facebook posts
A TORY councillor returned to her party after a 12-month suspension over sharing racist posts has said: ‘It was never meant to offend.’
Experienced councillor Linda Symes’ was suspended for sharing the ‘undeniably racist’ posts asking why there were no riots over the murders of soldier Lee Rigby and seven-year-old Emily Jones.
The Eastney and Craneswater ward member’s actions were uncovered in the days following Black Lives Matter protests over George Floyd’s police murder in America.
Some 38 complaints were made to Portsmouth City Council but a panel dismissed these, with the city solicitor Peter Baulf ruling she was not acting in an official capacity at the time.
One of the Facebook posts she shared said: ‘Because of his ethnicity Khan (Sadiq) will remain Mayor.’
Speaking to The News on being reinstated, Cllr Symes said: ‘My intention was never to offend anybody and the point I was trying to make is that I don’t care if you’re black, orange or pink – everybody who has a life taken away from them, or a family member, in a cruel, nasty way, their life matters.
‘That was the sentiment I was attempting to put across.
‘I’ve never been in any way racist. I’ve got friends in every country of the world.
‘I don’t see them as being any different to me. My parents said to me “there is no-one better than you, and you’re better than nobody else”.
‘I’m glad I’m back.
‘Would I have reposted it (again)? They were funny times, we were all at a time when we didn’t have enough to do and in hindsight I probably wouldn’t.
‘I never meant to offend or upset anyone. I’m glad to be back on the group.’
She will continue to serve her ward and the Tory group which counts among its ranks Cllr Lee Mason, who served a six-months suspension after allegedly baking a swastika on a hot cross bun.
Around 2,500 people signed a petition calling for Cllr Symes to be sacked from the Conservative Party.
Cllr Symes’ posts were branded ‘undeniably racist’ by those calling out the sharing.
Deputy Labour group leader Cllr Cal Corkery said: ‘Given Linda Symes and Lee Mason have now both been accepted back into the Conservative group with seemingly little more than a slap on the wrist you have to question the commitment of their party to tackling racism and discrimination in their ranks.
‘The Labour group was appalled by the grossly offensive social media posts made by these two councillors and calls on political groups across the spectrum to respect the diversity of our city and uphold the highest standards of public office.’