Cllr Andrew Bowles leader of Swale Borough Council has been suspended from the Conservative party after he controversially retweeted a post supporting far-right activist Tommy Robinson.
He has also come under fire previously for branding electoral candidates in Faversham as ‘Strange’, according to Kent Online he is reported to have said “I have every confidence in the current Faversham Town Council but all sorts of strange people are talking about coming forward at the next election.”
The backlash to both as I am sure you are aware has been overwhelming, with countless column inches of both local and national newspaper coverage and the response on social media has gone off the charts.
However, what does it ultimately mean going forward?
Can Cllr Andrew Bowles remain in his roles as a Swale Borough Councillor, Leader of Swale Borough Council and his ward councillor role within Kent County Council?
The upshot is that his suspension from the Conservative Party has no bearing on any of these positions at least from a constitutional point of view.
The only role that he can no longer fulfil is that of leader of the conservative group of councillors.
We spoke to the council to get clarification and a spokesman said:
“The council leader is elected to serve in that position by councillors, and the current issue is at this stage primarily a matter for the local party.”
“We have received complaints about the tweet, and will be considering those in line with our usual processes.”
There is some expectation that his suspension will be short-lived and that Cllr Bowles will be reinstated in time for the elections in May.
This is reinforced in a statement which Cllr Bowles has provided today which states “I have agreed to attend training on better use and understanding of acceptable use of social media, and I look forward to putting this issue behind me and continuing to represent the people of my ward who first elected me in 1987.”
He also says “My re-tweet was to express my opposition to various social media platforms banning Tommy Robinson. A view shared by many people from across the political spectrum.”
“In hindsight, I acknowledge that I should not have re-tweeted this post and apologise absolutely for any offense this may have caused.”
So, what do you think, is a training course sufficient recompense?
After all, this is a veteran councillor with over 30 year’s experience whom no doubt has already been in receipt of many such training courses and what of his other blunders. Is it acceptable to mock and intimidate prospective councillors from standing?