May 11 2012 By Poppy Bradbury
A COUNCILLOR expelled from the Ealing Tory Party says comments he made about Southall are ‘not racist’ and that he was the scapegoat for poor leadership.
Benjamin Dennehy, who will continue to represent residents in his Hanger Hill ward as an independent, said he was surprised to be expelled. The decision was made on Wednesday by the Ealing Central and Acton Conservative Association.
The New Zealand national was slammed by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors following a controversial blog he posted in March, which they described as ‘racist’.
He wrote how criminality is ‘endemic’ to Southall and that the area’s Indian community ‘exploits its own people’.
Mr Dennehy this week defended himself saying his comments were not racist and that the blog was approved by Conservative group leader Councillor David Millican before it was published online - a claim which Mr Millican denies.
The Tory leader said: “He is absolutely not saying the truth. No way did I approve the blog before he posted it. He was suspended very quickly and has now been expelled from the party. What he said was completely wrong and I agree with everything said in our statement.”
But the former Conservative continues to stand by his comments which discussed immigration and crime in Southall, despite persistent calls by opposition councillors for a public apology.
He told the Gazette on Friday: “I was surprised, so too were many grassroots members, by the decision to expel me from the Conservative Party.
“I believe I have been chosen as the fall guy for weak and indecisive leadership by my former group leader Councillor David Millican.
“There is nothing racist about the blog at all. No-one believes I am a racist, it’s pure political opportunism.
“Everything I said was already in the public domain. The BBC, the Telegraph and even the Gazette have run stories on the plight of thousands of Indians trapped in poverty in Southall.
“It’s a shame that legitimate comment in the UK is no longer allowed. I will continue to fight for the poor in Southall.”
A statement issued by the Conservative association’s chairman, Councillor John Cowing today is the first time the party has publicly condemned the controversial comments.
He said: “Councillor Benjamin Dennehy’s comments on his blog in March were his personal opinions and do not represent the views of the Conservative Party.
“He generalised a problem by besmirching and dishonouring a whole community, which is wrong.
“The Conservative Party consists of members from many different backgrounds and cultures, and we come together to share common principles and values.
“Ealing is a diverse and multicultural borough and the local Conservative Party is committed to representing all communities within Ealing.”