Portsmouth politician under fire for 'undeniably racist' social media posts

A PORTSMOUTH politician has come under fire for sharing 'undeniably racist' posts on social media but has insisted she was 'not being racist' and that 'every life matters’.

Wednesday, 3rd June 2020, 6:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd June 2020, 7:51 pm
Councillor Linda Symes has come under fire for some social media posts

Conservative Councillor Linda Symes, who was elected to the Eastney and Craneswater ward last year, and has served two previous terms as a councillor – faced backlash after sharing a slew of controversial posts on her Facebook account yesterday - as well as others that dated back to earlier this year.

Two of the posts referenced the murder of soldier Lee Rigby as well as seven-year-old Emily Jones, asking why there were no riots over their deaths. Another stated: 'Because of his ethnicity Khan (Sadiq) will remain Mayor.'

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Tory Councillor Linda Symes has come under fire for sharing and liking alleged racist posts on social media

A complaint was lodged with Portsmouth City Council regarding the posts.

Peter Baulf, the city solicitor, said: ‘We've received a complaint in line with the council’s procedures, which is being managed as per our approved process.

'This can be found on our website.’

The posts were also condemned by councillors of other parties.

Tory Councillor Linda Symes has come under fire for sharing and liking alleged racist posts on social media

Deputy leader of the Portsmouth Labour group, Cllr Tom Coles, said: 'This hate speech shared by a senior Conservative councillor is both highly offensive and undeniably racist.

‘The fact that it appears she has shared this content as a direct response to the murder of George Floyd, an event which has rightly shaken the world, only makes her actions more inexcusable.

‘I welcome any investigation into the actions of this city councillor.'

Cllr Claire Udy, the leader of the Progressive Portsmouth People group, added: ‘Cllr Symes has clearly been living in a very privileged bubble. Her use of the term “all lives matter” reinforces that. This isn’t about her.

Tory Councillor Linda Symes has come under fire for sharing and liking alleged racist posts on social media. Pictures: a tweet liked by Cllr Symes

‘It is about the systemic racism that people of colour in America have suffered for hundreds of years.

‘I call for Cllr Symes to be suspended and investigated immediately by the Conservatives.’

However, council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘We are very clear in the Lib Dem party that we do not approve of any racist behaviour at all by anybody.

‘But we also realise that people make mistakes. If they recognise they have made a mistake and apologise then we need to move on.’

Tory Councillor Linda Symes has come under fire for sharing and liking alleged racist posts on social media

It comes as two Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been organised in Portsmouth following the murder of George Floyd in the US.

Simon Magorian, one of the co-ordinators of Portsmouth Stand Up to Racism, said: ‘I think the posts are appalling. We have to ask the Tories what they are going to do about it. Her membership should be in question.

‘There's a Lee Rigby Foundation. If she's concerned about honouring his memory she should be supporting that. His mother has said before that the use of his name in this way is disrespectful.’

But Cllr Linda Symes stood by the posts. ‘In sharing posts on my private Facebook page, I was highlighting that there been have brutal killings of children and adults in the UK, but people didn’t protest and riot about that,’ she said.

‘Every life matters and what we need now is calm and common sense. In sharing the posts I was not being racist. The death of George Floyd is a tragedy and those responsible should be held to account, but so should those that kill anyone of any creed colour or religion.’

Tory Councillor Linda Symes has come under fire for sharing and liking alleged racist posts on social media

The Portsmouth Tory group was approached for comment.

In April a member of the party, Cllr Lee Mason, was suspended after allegedly baking a swastika into a hot cross bun.

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Tory Councillor Linda Symes has come under fire for sharing and liking alleged racist posts on social media