28/04/2021 18:43 BST | Updated 28/04/2021 18:58 BST

Tories Urged To Expel Election Candidate Who ‘Endorsed’ Far-Right Leader

The local election candidate, who appeared to express support for Tommy Robinson, reportedly resigned from the party in 2018 before later being readmitted.

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images
Founder and former leader of the anti-Islam English Defence League (EDL), Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, arrives at the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court, in central London on July 5, 2019

The Conservatives have been urged to expel a local election candidate who “endorsed” far-right leader Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, on social media.

The Tories were also asked to explain whether it was “incompetence or malice” that led to the candidate being readmitted to the party after reportedly resigning in 2018 when the post was first flagged with the party’s central office.

In the Facebook post first reported by the Lancashire Telegraph, Andrew Walker, a Tory candidate for Blackburn with Darwen Council, appeared to share a “meme” featuring a photo of Robinson which was headlined: “Tommy Robinson has done nothing but expose the truth behind radical Islam.”

Above the post, Walker wrote: “Cant be easy preaching what we all think !!!” [sic]

It’s utterly unacceptable for any member of a political party – yet alone the party of government – to be enthusiastically endorsing [Yaxley-Lennon's] extremism

The Lancashire Telegraph also published screenshots showing Walker had once said on Facebook that “stabbing [Jeremy] Corbyn would get you knighted in my book”.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner urged the Conservatives to “reassure the public” that far-right supporters are not standing for the party in local elections.

“The Conservatives must explain whether it was incompetence or malice that led them to not only readmit this person into the party but then to select him as a candidate,” she told HuffPost UK.

“They must also set out what steps they are taking to reassure the public that no other far right [...] supporters are standing for them in the local elections.”

Rayner said the Tories were facing “serious questions” over a “failure to tackle racism in their party”, pointing out that its inquiry into Islamophobia has still not published a report and in any case was “watered down before it even began”. 

Anti-racism campaigners Hope Not Hate also raised concerns over the Islamophobia report and said there was no doubt that “endorsing” a convicted criminal like Yaxley-Lennon was “utterly unacceptable”.

The English Defence League (EDL) founder is currently being sued for libel by a Syrian teenager Jamal Hijazi, 17, over comments he made when the boy was attacked at his Huddersfield school in October 2018.

In 2019, Robinson was jailed for contempt of court after live-streaming on Facebook a video that featured defendants in a sexual exploitation trial and put the case at risk of collapse.

In the past, he has been convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, mortgage fraud and travelling on another man’s passport to the United States, among other offences.

A Hope Not Hate spokesperson said: “During the Conservative Party leadership contest, Boris Johnson and all other candidates committed to holding a specific inquiry into Islamophobia affecting the party. Many months later and that commitment has been watered down, we’re still waiting for the results of the resulting Singh inquiry, and we still have Conservative Party candidates sharing far-right memes and hatred against Muslims.

“In this day and age, no one can be in any doubt about the far-right rabble rouser ‘Tommy Robinson’, a multiply convicted violent criminal and fraudster, and it’s utterly unacceptable for any member of a political party – yet alone the party of government – to be enthusiastically endorsing his extremism.

“The Conservative Party must remove this candidate immediately, and expedite publishing the results of the inquiry into prejudice in the party.”

Walker’s election agent for the Darwen South seat said they could not comment as the matter is under investigation by Tory central office.

HuffPost UK has contacted Tory central office for comment.

The local elections take place on May 6.