SOLIHULL council’s leader has refused to rule out accepting a councillor embroiled in a racism row back into the ruling Conservative group – after he was welcomed back into the party nationally.
Knowle councillor Jeff Potts was suspended from the group last September after a probe was launched into his re-tweeting of ‘offensive’ anti-Muslim tweets.
Following the internal investigation, he was banned from holding his previous committee post, ordered to attend diversity training and reprimanded by a conduct panel.
The former teacher was also suspended from the national Conservative party, and forced to become an independent councillor outside the ruling Tory group.
Rumours on social media have emerged since last week that he is to be welcomed back into the Conservative group at the council, and by the party nationally.
A petition launched at the end of last year calling on Coun Potts’ resignation reached nearly 3,000 signatures.
We asked council leader Bob Sleigh whether Coun Potts had been, or will be, accepted back into the Conservative group.
Coun Sleigh said: “Coun Jeff Potts is an independent member. He is not a member of the Conservative Group.” He would not elaborate.
We also contacted chairman of the Meriden Conservatives Association Coun Diana Holl-Allen and asked whether Coun Potts had been accepted back into the party locally and nationally.
She said: “As the chairman of the Meriden Association I can confirm that Jeff Potts has been reinstated as a member of the Conservative Party.”
Coun Potts shared a number of extreme comments about Muslims including one which stated: “Deport and repatriate all Muslims from the UK or watch terrorists kill innocent people for generations to come.”
Coun Potts also shared a tweet from another account which commented: “Drug related.. mmm.. will wait on the verdict wonder if his name will be a good old fashioned British name.”
He re-tweeted comments which state: “You’ve clearly not experienced the Pakistani hospitality, having a daughter raped by men who think she’s ‘white trash’.”
Green councillor Tim Hodgson said: “Solihull council passed a motion only last year absolutely committing to community cohesion and rejecting racism, then suddenly there is a possible move to get Jeff back in the group – which just sends the opposite signal.
“They’re being evasive. We are watching to see how it all plays out.
“Those tweets were never deleted. He didn’t get rid of them. Despite going through council disciplinary and a code of conduct panel.”
The monitoring officer at Solihull council received 50 complaints concerning tweets, or re-tweets, Coun Potts had posted.
The complaints said the tweets were discriminatory while some of the complainants also claimed they were xenophobic and racist.
Coun Potts had issued a pubic apology and stated in the wake of the controversy that re-tweets on his account were not endorsements of others’ sentiments.
In apologising, he said his intentions were only to raise important issues that he felt needed discussion in light of events and “political correctness”.
He added he recognised the tweets should have been written in a more balanced way than the ones he ‘stupidly’ displayed on his Twitter account.
Coun Potts formerly sat on a religious education committee.
We asked Coun Potts about his current and future status as a councillor. He said simply: “I am a member of the Conservative Party.”