Parish councillor suspended by Conservative Party over slavery tweet

Elfan Ap Rees has been suspended by the Conservative Party. Picture: Paul Blakemore

Elfan Ap Rees has been suspended by the Conservative Party. Picture: Paul Blakemore - Credit: Archant

The Conservative Party has suspended a parish councillor after he tweeted slaves ‘had a better life than staying in Africa’.

Former North Somerset Council deputy leader Elfan Ap Rees wrote the tweet on May 27, which has since been removed, in response to the BBC Two programme A House Through Time, which explored Bristol’s slave trade past.

The Locking parish councillor tweeted: “Bristol needs to get over it ... its history, and most slaves were sold by their fellow African tribes to visiting ships and had a better life than staying in Africa. Some cruelty, yes, but there was worse among the White poor living in slum conditions of the time, and p [sic].”

The Conservative Party said Mr Ap Rees had been ‘suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation’.

It comes after Black Lives Matter protesters threw the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston into the harbour on June 7.

The statue has since been retrieved and will be placed in a museum.

A spokesman for Locking Parish Council said: “We have been made aware of the incident and will be considering what action to take as a council when we have the full facts. If we find there has been a breach of the code of conduct, we will refer the matter to North Somerset Council’s monitoring and standards officer. We don’t have the power to deal with this sort of complaint. There are no sanctions we can make as a parish council.

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“Mr Ap Rees’s Twitter account does not make reference to his role as a parish councillor.”

The parish council’s code of conduct for members includes ‘always treating people with respect, including the organisations and public you engage with and those you work alongside’.

Mr Ap Rees lost his Hutton and Locking seat in 2019’s local elections and was not re-elected as deputy leader of North Somerset after the Conservatives’ 36-strong council was cut to 13.

In response to his suspension, the Weston Labour Party tweeted: “Thank goodness this despicable racist no longer represents us on North Somerset Council.

“How the Conservatives can justify him remaining a member after his repeated racist comments is beyond us.”