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Swale Borough Council leader Andrew Bowles apologises for Tommy Robinson re-tweet

By Anna MacSwan

A council leader has apologised for re-tweeting a post describing far-right activist Tommy Robinson as a "patriot".

Andrew Bowles, the leader of Swale Borough Council, was suspended from the Conservative party last night after he shared a magazine cover on Twitter saying a decision to ban Mr Robinson from Facebook and Instagram was a "disgraceful injustice", urging people to re-tweet if they agreed.

Cllr Bowles, who has represented Boughton and Courtenay ward near Faversham since 1987, has now apologised for the post and says he does not "in any way support Tommy Robinson."

Cllr Andrew Bowles
Cllr Andrew Bowles

In a statement, he said: "I would like to make it absolutely clear that I do not in any way support Tommy Robinson or have any sympathy whatsoever with the racist and intolerant views promoted by him or his political movement.

"I find racial intolerance abhorrent and I condemn it absolutely."

The councillor, who last week shrugged aside criticism of the post saying he had been "supporting the process of free speech," has also agreed to attend social media training.

"As a democrat, I have always believed that the best way to counter bigotry is through debate and discussion," he continued.

"History has taught us that trying to silence people turns them into martyrs and gains them sympathy and publicity. 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 I apologise absolutely for any offence this may have caused.

"Throughout my life I have promoted equality and diversity which my fellow members of Swale Borough Council will testify.

"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 represent the people of my ward who first elected me in 1987."

Tommy Robinson, the founder of the English Defence League whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram last month for repeatedly breaking policies on hate speech.

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