POLITICS
29/04/2021 10:54 BST

Tories Suspend Election Candidate Who ‘Endorsed’ Far-Right Leader

Party had let Andrew Walker stand for Blackburn with Darwen Council despite his praise for Tommy Robinson, real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images
Founder and former leader of the anti-Islam English Defence League (EDL), Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, addresses supporters outside the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court, in central London on July 4, 2019

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

Andrew Walker had been running for the Darwen South seat on Blackburn with Darwen Council, but was suspended pending an investigation by the party.

It came amid criticism from Labour and anti-racism campaigners of Walker’s previous social media posts, revealed by the Lancashire Telegraph.

The newspaper reported that Walker had already once resigned from the Tories in 2018 when the posts were flagged with the party’s central office, but seemed to have been readmitted and selected as a candidate for next week’s local elections.

In one Facebook post, Walker appeared to share a photo of Robinson that 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]

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

On Thursday, a Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Andrew Walker has been suspended by the Party, pending the outcome of an investigation.”

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 candidateLabour deputy leader Angela Rayner

But the party did not answer questions on how Walker was readmitted to the party after the posts had already been flagged and he had already resigned.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner on Wednesday told HuffPost UK: “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 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”. 

Hope Not Hate had on Wednesday called for Walker to be removed as a candidate.

The anti-racism campaigners also raised concerns over delays to 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.

On Wednesday, Walker’s election agent said neither they nor Walker could comment as the matter was under investigation by the party’s central office.