Row over new Sunderland city Council leader’s Facebook posts

Coun Graeme Miller
Coun Graeme Miller

The man set to become Sunderland’s new council leader has defended himself after apologising for posts on his personal Facebook page.

Councillor Graeme Miller was elected as the new leader of Sunderland’s Labour Group at the weekend, and is set to become the new leader of Sunderland City Council next week.

A Facebook post shared by Councillor Graeme Miller who represents Washington South

A Facebook post shared by Councillor Graeme Miller who represents Washington South

The councillor, who represents Washington South, apologised in March after historic posts from his Facebook page were highlighted. One post featured Kate Middleton asking the Queen: “So what’s the secret to a long and healthy life?”, and Her Majesty answering: “Don’t leave William for a Muslim”.

Another showed ‘Tory Jesus’ telling a disciple not to give everything to the poor because ‘poor families can’t budget and if they were given money would only spend it on alcohol, cigarettes and wide-screen TVs’.

And a third said: “The only good tory is a dead un apparently, if Nye Bevan didn’t like them why should we, he was a sensible guy with vision.”

Former councillor and community campaigner Mike Tansey condemned Coun Miller’s selection as leader in light of the posts.

They were meant to be humorous posts during the election back in 2016. There was no intention to upset anyone, and that is why I apologised.

Coun Graeme Miller

“I have to question his attitude towards racism and the remarks about what poor people would spend their money on, in a city like Sunderland, is absolutely disgraceful,” he said.

“That the Labour group have actually voted for him as leader has got to call into question the attitude of the majority of Labour members

“If I was sitting there, I would be thinking ‘Why have I got to support this?’.”

But Coun Miller said the posts had been ‘a bit of political banter’ and he had not intended to offend anyone: “At the end of the day, I apologised unreservedly about the matter,” he said.

A Facebook post shared by Councillor Graeme Miller who represents Washington South

A Facebook post shared by Councillor Graeme Miller who represents Washington South

“They were meant to be humorous posts during the election back in 2016.

“There was no intention to upset anyone, and that is why I apologised.

“I would never want to upset anybody over something like a Facebook post.

“I have apologised unreservedly for any offence that was caused and that, as far as I am concerned, is the end of it.

“I don’t know what more I can do than give a heartfelt apology.”

He denied categorically that the post featuring the Queen was racist: “It was not about Muslims – I think it was lifted straight off a Private Eye page.

“It is about the conspiracy theorists who say princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed had been killed by the Royals.

“There was absolutely nothing racist about it – it just appealed as a humorous post from a satirical magazine.

“But if that upset somebody, the best thing to do is take it down.”

The comment from ‘Tory Jesus’ had been a direct quote from a Conservative MP, he added.

Coun Miller said he had changed his approach to what he posted online: “If you look at my Facebook page, it is still open.

“I have changed my methodology of Facebook because you can upset people unintentionally and that is not what it is about.”

Coun Miller became leader of Sunderland’s Labour Group on Saturday after standing against the incumbent, Councillor Harry Trueman, in a leadership contest.

His appointment as Sunderland City Council leader must be voted through by all councillors at a meeting on May 16.

But as Coun Miller is the choice of the ruling Labour Group, the vote is little more than a formality.