Tories to expel NF candidate

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The Independent Online
TORIES in a west London constituency represented by the only Conservative Asian MP have been stunned to learn that a local party member is to stand as a National Front candidate at a council by-election.

Ray O'Connor, 34, a former Home Counties boxing champion, will represent the NF in the election for Feltham South ward of Hounslow Borough Council on 11 November.

Local Tory leaders will meet in emergency session on Tuesday night to expel him, amid fears that they have given political credibility to 'a rotten apple' recruited last year when Nirj Deva became the first Asian Conservative MP.

In the wake of the election of Derek Beackon as a British National Party councillor in Tower Hamlets, east London, last month, the NF candidature linked to the Tories has sparked fears in a racially mixed borough with high unemployment.

Peter Carey, a Hounslow councillor and chairman of the Conservative Association in the constituency, Brentford and Isleworth, said: 'As soon as it was discovered that he was on our books as a member I discussed how we could expel him. There is a procedure, which we immediately put into place.'

Mr O'Connor will be expelled in his absence on Tuesday night by the 50-strong local executive for 'opinions and conduct inconsistent with the objects of the association'.

Mr Carey added: 'I personally, and the party generally, find no place for a person who has the views that that man has - and must have - to stand as a candidate for the National Front. I didn't feel embarrassed - I felt annoyance.'

Feltham South is one of the more favoured areas of Hounslow borough, with an unemployment rate of just over 9 per cent, and a mixture of owner- occupiers and council tenants. More than 90 per cent of its 8,839 voters are white, and last time a racist candidate stood - for the BNP in 1990 - he polled only 93 votes.

This time, the BNP is giving a clear run for the ultra-right vote to Mr O'Connor. The official Tory candidate is Anthony Gurrin, a retired hotel valuer. Lynda Walmsley is favourite to retain the seat for Labour. She derided the idea of an NF victory: 'People are pretty sensible and I don't see the NF as a problem.' Royston Haines, a marketing executive, is Liberal Democrat candidate.

The Feltham South embarrassment has highlighted a gap in the Conservatives' monitoring of potential party members. Mr O'Connor, who is unemployed, joined the association shortly before the 1992 general election on payment of a pounds 3 membership fee - a fifth of Labour's annual subscription.

His application was not vetted in any way, though it gave him access to sensitive information during the general election; nor were any subsequent checks made on his suitability. No central register of inappropriate applicants is held by the Tories at area or national level.

The Brentford and Isleworth Conservative agent, Keith Witham, said: 'He paid his subscription in the early part of last year. He was certainly not out of the ordinary. Every election brings forward new supporters who offer to join.

'Two weeks ago we discovered he was standing as a National Front candidate. Clearly, it is not something we should have wanted. We want to totally dissociate ourselves from him.'

Mr O'Connor has been quoted by his agent, Michael Stoneman, as having become disillusioned with the Tories over 'surrendering power to Brussels, and continued immigration into Britain'. Mr Stoneman added: 'His main concern for Feltham is the way in which the Labour party is spending tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on dubious foreign causes.'

He is said to have joined the NF earlier this year, allowing his membership of the Tory party to lapse. But he never resigned, and Conservative rules require him to be expelled.

Racism growing, page 6