Labour win Harlow by-election seat held by ex-councillor after his Twitter account retweeted ‘racist’ material
Charlie Ridler www.msn.com
Labour have won a seat formerly held by an ex-councillor who resigned after “racist” content was retweeted on his Twitter account. Kay Morrison will represent Bush Fair ward on on Harlow Council after beating Conservative candidate Emma Ghaffari by 112 votes in a by-election last night (June 23).
The former Conservative councillor Marco Lorenzini won the seat from Labour by just four votes in the May local elections, but only a week later had the party whip withdrawn and then resigned. In an earlier statement, Harlow Conservatives said they “utterly condemn” the remarks retweeted from Mr Lorenzini’s account, withdrawing the whip and calling on him to resign. A later statement by Harlow Council confirmed Mr Lorenzini had resigned.
Labour now hold 13 seats on the council, but the Conservatives still have a majority, holding 20 seats. Speaking to the local democracy reporting service after the result, Cllr Morrison said she was “absolutely delighted” by the victory.
She said: “I know that quite a lot of Conservative voters have been disillusioned, and who would blame them with the behaviour of those MPs, and in particular the Prime Minister, in Westminster and the behaviour of a certain individual here in Harlow, really not acceptable.”
Conservative candidate Emma Ghaffari said the controversy surrounding Mr Lorenzini’s departure was not the main reason for the group’s defeat. She told the LDRS: “I do feel sad about it [the result] but we must move on, onwards and upwards.” Later she said: “The cost of living and other various factors came into play, but we just stick with local issues.” She said she could not comment on whether the Conservative group would be changing its vetting procedure for candidates.
According to Harlow Council’s website, the turnout was 22.97 per cent, 4.67 per cent lower than in May. Cllr Morrison received 594 votes while Ms Ghaffari received 482. Meanwhile, the Green Party’s Jennifer Steadman received 109 votes and Nicholas Taylor, standing for the Harlow Alliance Party, received 47.
Likes and retweets which had been made by Mr Lorenzini’s account emerged on Twitter on May 10, including one referring to a “Muslim invasion” and another saying white people are “the only race you can legally discriminate against”. Another mocked the recent casting of Ncuti Gatwa, a Black Scottish actor with Rwandan heritage, as the next Doctor Who.
A Harlow Council spokesperson said in an earlier statement: “Marco Lorenzini has resigned as councillor for the Bush Fair Ward with immediate effect.”
A statement shared by Harlow Conservatives on Twitter said: “We utterly condemn these remarks and have removed the whip from this councillor with immediate effect. This means he will sit as an independent councillor.
“These abhorrent views are not the views of the Conservative party and we utterly condemn them. There is no place in our party for such thought and we will never accept it.”
A later tweet from Harlow Conservatives said: “Our group calls unreservedly for the independent councillor to resign with immediate effect.” A third said: “Following this, we understand this Cllr has resigned.” Sharing the screenshots on Twitter, former Labour leader of the council Mark Ingall claimed Mr Lorenzini’s account was “spreading racist hate”. Nationally, the Conservatives also lost two Westminster by-elections to opposition parties last night, losing Wakefield to Labour and Tiverton and Honiton in Devon to the Liberal Democrats, according to reporting by the BBC.