by PHIL HARRISON
A SOUTHEND councillor has been suspended from the Tory party after receiving praise for his support of an English Defence League (EDL) march in London.
Cllr Blaine Robin, ward councillor for Kursaal Ward, was suspended from the Conservative Party on Thursday as they launched an internal investigation into his links with the controversial protest group.
A video on video-sharing website YouTube appears to show EDL leader Tommy Robinson pointing out Cllr Robin in the crowd at a meeting in Southend earlier this year.
Between chants of ‘EDL, EDL, EDL’, Mr Robinson says: “I am proud that the first politician I have ever met who actually represents his constituents is a man outside, a black man, who is a local politician in Southend. It’s even greater to see that he has heard the free message of the English Defence League, not the distorted media attempt.”
The EDL is a far right protest group who have gained infamy in recent years after a number of protests turned violent – including a recent rally against Islamic extremism in Tower Hamlets last month that saw 60 arrests.
Cllr Robin won his seat by just six votes back in 2008 and has since become a Tory ‘pin-up’ for their ‘Become a Councillor’ campaign where he proudly announces his success at the third attempt in a “tough ‘Labour’ dominated ward with a strong far right campaigning presence”.
Labour's MEP Richard Howitt, who has campaigned against far right extremism in the European Parliament, wrote to the Conservatives on Wednesday prompting a full investigation.
Speaking to the Enquirer, he slammed any EDL involvement in Essex saying: "As Southend's Member of the European Parliament, I regret that I have encountered in our wider European Parliament East of England constituency three demonstrations by the EDL during the past year, when I have found them to cause inordinate cost and disruption to our police and local councils, to overtly spread a message that is racist and offensive, and to bring fear and division in to local communities. I sincerely hope that does not happen to Southend."
Anna Waite, chairman of Rochford and Southend East Conservative Association, has warned media that it appeared Cllr Robin’s links to the EDL were “a serious error of judgment but no more”.
In a statement released on Thursday, she said: “Rochford and Southend East Conservative Association abhor and condemn far right groups such as the English Defence League.
“We have recently been made aware that one of our members, Cllr Blaine Robin, attended a meeting of the EDL. As a result of this we have decided to temporarily suspend his party membership pending an internal investigation by the Conservative Party.
“I would like to make it clear that Blaine has been active in fighting against racism and intolerance for many years and that at this stage it appears his behaviour in associating with the EDL represents a serious error of judgement but no more.
“However, given the controversy surrounding this group we feel it is appropriate that we take this action in order to fully reassure members of the community who may be concerned. We are all part of this community and as a Conservative I will work with all groups towards the goal of bringing us together in a safe and happy community.”
Leader of Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, Cllr Nigel Holdcroft, reacted to the suspension saying: “The association has action and we now await the outcome of the investigation.”
Cllr Robin was contacted by the Enquirer but has yet to respond.