Our south of the borough correspondent, PEARL LEE, reports on how a Tory-backed group in Coulsdon has cause to regret handing its social media account over to a far-right agitator
The Coulsdon West Residents’ Association, only reformed recently with the help of their local Conservative councillors, was forced into issuing a hurried apology yesterday after tweets issued on their account used the Trumpian – and racist – phrase “the Chinese flu virus”.
According to the CWRA’s chair, the person responsible has been issued with a reprimand.
It is understood that CWRA had handed the passwords and some responsibility for handling their Twitter account to Peter Morgan, who is notorious as a far-right campaigner and sometime member of UKIP. Morgan’s views were so abhorrent, the Croydon branch of UKIP was forced to expel him. Morgan has now been embraced by the Conservative Party in Croydon.
Morgan has been an active and enthusiastic member of the Alliance of British Drivers.
In his time, Morgan has campaigned against the building of Tramlink, used multiple anonymous social media accounts to try to undermine the democratic process over the introduction of 20mph zones around the borough, and has claimed – apparently in all seriousness – that driving children to school is safer than allowing them to walk or use public transport.
Last month, Mario Creatura, the failed Tory parliamentary candidate, together with his Coulsdon Town councillor colleagues Luke Clancy and Ian Parker, announced the re-launch of the supposedly apolitical Coulsdon West Residents’ Association. Morgan was named as a member of CWRA’s new committee, placed in charge of “roads, parking, membership”.
Since when, there has been a barrage of tweets from CWRA’s Twitter account, mostly on Morgan’s pet subject: motoring and roads.
Earlier this month one Croydon councillor, Labour’s Sean Fitzsimons, accused Morgan of using the CWRA Twitter account “to campaign against measures to stop speeding on the A23 Coulsdon bypass”.
Although Fitzsimons challenged Creatura and Parker on whether they supported such a campaign, the Tories chose to remain silent on the subject.
They may now have cause for further discomfort caused by Morgan.
The CWRA account published a complaint just before 8pm on Thursday about a “serious dangerous fly-tip in Portnalls Road” which had yet to be removed by council staff.
It is known that council staff across a range of departments, including rubbish contractors Veolia, have been working at full stretch during the coronavirus epidemic, coping with the requirements of the lockdown while also trying to cope with colleagues who have been off sick or in self-isolation.
According to the CWRA tweet: “Council blame Chinese flu virus for delay.”
A Town Hall source today strongly refuted any suggestion that such racially-loaded language has been used by anyone working for the council.
In the United States, when President Donald Trump used similar racist language to describe the virus, there followed a spate of hate-crime attacks on Asian Americans and on businesses run by those of a Chinese background.
And while it is not in dispute that covid-19 was first recognised at the end of last year in the Chinese province of Wuhan, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that it owes its origins to China.
The CWRA soon received several complaints over its use of the racist phrase.
“Can we have an RA with some sense please?” one resident complained on Twitter.
“We can see the expelled UKIP influence with the ‘Chinese references’ and the panic being created by sensational tweets. Be responsible and grow-up or shut-up.”
Another resident responded: “It’s not Chinese flu, it’s covid-19. Bit disrespectful.”
And Fitzsimons stepped in, too, to ask questions of CWRA and their councillors.
“Why is Coulsdon West Residents’ Association allowing Peter Morgan to use their account and spread racist nonsense about covid-19?” the Labour councillor asked. He also challenged Creatura and Parker to “do something about this”.
By yesterday morning, one CWRA official had stepped in to delete the offending tweet and apologise “for some of the inappropriate references in previous tweets”.
Lynne Rothberg, the chair of CWRA, told Inside Croydon: “CWRA considers these tweets were insensitive and wholly inappropriate and the person who posted them has been reprimanded so there should be no repeat.”
Rothberg declined to identify who had been responsible. “It is not appropriate for me to name the individual,” she said.
With the exception of a single tweet to claim that they had “flagged” an issue, Creatura and Parker, true to form, offered no condemnation of the racism and remained silent on the racist tweets, widely thought to have been written by their fellow Tory Party member.
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