A newly-elected Conservative councillor has apologised for “offensive” social media posts after the party confirmed his suspension has been lifted.
Barnes candidate Antony Mullen was suspended at a national level following comments labelled as offensive by Labour and Liberal Democrats.
The Twitter posts included describing Sunderland as a “post-apocalyptic ****hole” and Labour MP Diane Abbott as a “filthy, bulbous pig”.
In Thursday’s local government election, the teaching assistant won local support with 1,560 votes – a 322 majority over Labour rival Zaf Iqbal.
The Conservative Party have now confirmed Mr Mullen’s suspension has been lifted with “immediate effect” with his party membership restored.
A party statement explains the suspension involved tweets made between four and seven years ago while he was a student and before becoming a Conservative member.
It adds a Local and Area Conservative Party Management investigation concluded there was no evidence to support claims, adding his tweets “may not have been to everyone’s taste” and “there was never any intention to offend or cause hurt.”
In a post-election statement, Antony Mullen has apologised for comments adding he is “appalled and shocked at the attempts to brand me as a racist”.
He explained that “nothing could be further from the truth” with many tweets “used against me in an effort to ruin my chances of being elected.”
“I wish to state that I did not at anytime intend to cause offence to anyone,” he added.
“Most of the tweets have been wildly construed to give an unfavourable impression of me.
“I can only apologise wholeheartedly to anyone the tweets offended as they were misrepresented in the press.
“The passing of time has removed them from their original context.
“I now look forward to representing the residents of Barnes Ward who have elected me their councillor”.
Antony Mullen also recieved criticism for using the slogan “From Here, For Here” in his campaign literature.
But Sunderland Conservative Chairman, Graham Hall, commented this “was not a racist remark but a statement of fact that he is from the Barnes Ward and his intention to represent and fight for the residents of the Barnes Ward where he has been duly elected.”
“Many of Antony Mullen’s tweets were taken totally out of context and used to try and assassinate Antony Mullen’s character in an effort to portray him in an unfavourable light to the electorate,” he added.
“It is encouraging to see that enough of the electorate saw through this cynical attempt to derail his campaign and voted for him.
“Such attempts like this can only be described as “gutter politics” and not worthy of a responsible candidate nor a respectable political party.
“It is a shame that some in politics cannot campaign in some areas on the real issues that matter to voters instead of this unacceptable behaviour in the pursuit of their own agenda.”
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service