Portsmouth Tories suspend senior councillor after she shared 'undeniably racist' posts online
A SENIOR Tory politician has been suspended from the party for sharing ‘undeniably racist’ posts on social media.
Disgraced Councillor Linda Symes has been booted from the Conservatives this evening after sharing a slew of controversial posts on Facebook.
She is the second councillor in as many months from the city’s Tory group to be booted from the party for sharing offensive material online.
Two of her 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’.
The post sparked a massive uproar online with more than 2,500 people signing a petition online calling for her to be sacked.
David Williams, chief executive of Portsmouth City Council, informed all the island’s councillors of the move by Tory party HQ.
He said: ‘Dear members, I am emailing you to advise that Cllr Linda Symes has been suspended from the Conservative Party today.
‘As a consequence she is also suspended from the Conservative group on PCC. I have received the notification from her group leader (Donna Jones).
‘I will make any adjustments to political balance as necessary.’
The situation comes amid on-going protests over the death of American George Floyd, who died while being arrested by a white police officer in the US.
Cllr Symes is now the second of the city’s Tory councillors to be kicked from the party in the past two months.
In April, Councillor Lee Mason was suspended for sharing a photo of a hot cross bun with a Nazi-style Swaskita on it over Easter.
Responding to news that Cllr Symes had been suspended, Labour’s deputy group leader in Portsmouth, Cllr Tom Coles said: ‘Whilst this decision is the right thing to do, the fact it has taken five days to do so seriously calls into question the judgement and integrity of Portsmouth Conservatives.
‘The fact we’re still to hear from the local Tory leader (Donna Jones) is frankly shameful and morally bankrupt.’
Speaking to The News before her suspension, Cllr Symes – who represents Eastney and Craneswater – insisted she was not a racist.
However, she did not apologise for sharing the comments on Facebook, which she later deleted.
Standing by them, Cllr Symes said: ‘In sharing posts on my private Facebook page, I was highlighting that there have been brutal killings of children and adults in the UK, but people didn’t protest and riot about that.
‘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.’
This week the mother of murdered soldier Lee Rigby, Lyn Rigby said her family had become ‘aware of a number of posts using images of Lee and his murder in a divisive way’ to oppose the Black Lives Matters movement.
Condemning the use In a post on the Lee Rigby Foundation Facebook page, Mrs Rigby said: ‘Lee proudly served his country to protect the rights and freedoms of all members of this great melting pot of a nation.
‘Seeing his image used to cause hate of any kind, especially for those exercising their freedoms in protest against this issue, hurts.
‘We find these posts extremely heartbreaking and distressing, and in complete opposition to what Lee stood for.’
Last week hundreds of people in Portsmouth joined a series of Black Lives Matter protests in Guildhall Square.
Over the weekend, thousands more nationwide have staged rallies deploring racism.
Despite numerous attempts by The News, Portsmouth’s Tory leader Donna Jones has not yet commented on Cllr Symes’ actions.