North Herts Conservative election candidate suspended over shared Facebook posts

PUBLISHED: 16:53 01 May 2019

Conservative Cadwell candidate Michael Goddard has been suspended over posts he shared on Facebook. Picture: Claire Strong/Archant

Conservative Cadwell candidate Michael Goddard has been suspended over posts he shared on Facebook. Picture: Claire Strong/Archant

Archant

The Conservative candidate for Cadwell in tomorrow's North Hertfordshire District Council elections has been suspended by the party over posts shared on Facebook.

Michael Goddard is under investigation after posts which he shared on the social networking site in 2018 were brought to the attention of the Hitchin and Harpenden Conservative Association.

A spokesman for the association told the Comet: “Mr Goddard has been suspended pending an investigation and we will make no further comment until that process has been concluded.”

A former party member, who alerted the association to the posts, said: “I do not think that this man represents the views of the majority of decent voters and I consider that he is unfit for public office.

“Any association between the Conservative Party and such extremism must be resisted at all costs, or the party will he irredeemably tainted.”

Three posts shared by Mr Goddard back in 2018 were referred to in the former member's complaint.

The first of those, on January 21 last year, was a post explaining the history of the Golliwog, a cartoon created in the later 1800s that later became a children's toy, but in recent years has become a symbol of racism due to the doll's 'blackfacing'.

The second, on July 11, came from right-wing group Albion First, whose original post showed a picture of Sadiq Khan with the caption 'like and share if you are ashamed that this man is Mayor of London'.

The third, on August 9, was a cartoon mocking the burqa, a garment worn tradationally by Islamic women to cover their body and face.

The Albion First post caused particular concern for the former party member who reported Mr Goddard.

“I am particularly concerned to note that he shared a post from the racist Albion First movement,” they said.

“Any association between the Conservative party and such extremists must be resisted at all costs, or the party will be irredeemably tainted.”

Mr Goddard has refuted claims of racism while describing the decision to suspend him as a “knee jerk reaction”.

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“I categorically refute these allegations,” he said.

“I abhor racism in all its forms and am shocked and saddened that people are trying to put this label on me.

“These historic Facebook posts, shared between colleagues, have been taken totally out of context in an attempt to slur my name.

“The Conservative Party has chosen to temporarily suspend me while there is an investigation under way.

“I am disappointed by this 'knee jerk' reaction, but understand their position.

“I look forward to having my name cleared and putting this sorry saga to one side so we can focus on the issues that matter.”

David Leal-Bennett, a former co-chair of the Hitchin and Harpenden Conservative Association who remains a party member, was quick to defend Mr Goddard, telling the Comet: “I continue to support Michael as a Conservative candidate.

“Unfortunately there has been a vendetta against him and an attempt to dig up dirt and label him a racist.

“Knowing Michael, I can tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.

“As the former co-chair of the association I have looked at the posts, instigated by others.

“It is appalling that small-minded people who have nothing better to do are intent on making an issue of social media humour and light relief between friends. My message is 'get over it'.

“Perhaps I will also be suspended because I put Robertson's Golly on my homemade marmalade, childhood memories not to be erased by the 'political incorrect' brigade.”

Polling stations will be open from 7am to 10pm tomorrow as voters decide who will be elected to 16 different seats on North Herts District Council including the Cadwell ward, where David De Smet (Labour), Rosamund McGuire (Green) and Sam North (Lib Dem) will be standing alongside Mr Goddard.

The count will take place on Friday – with the Comet reporting the results as they come in via our website.

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