A Conservative councillor who was photographed wearing a blackshirt and surrounded by fascist imagery at far-right events is under investigation by the party chair, Nadhim Zahawi.
Andy Weatherhead, who represents Hythe West on Kent county council, attended rallies organised by the openly fascist New British Union (NBU), wore a blackshirt and was surrounded by symbols associated with Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, prior to joining the Conservative party.
Weatherhead has apologised and claimed he attended two events “in the spirit of education and curiosity”.
An investigation by the anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate (HNH) last week claimed that Weatherhead used to operate under the name “Beadle” and was a senior member of the NBU, an attempted revival of Mosley’s far-right group.
HNH said Weatherhead ran for Ukip four times before becoming a member of the Conservatives in 2018 and a councillor in 2021.
According to HNH, Weatherhead was the NBU’s policy officer and in 2013 delivered a speech at the organisation’s inaugural conference.
He was also pictured wearing blackshirt attire that same year at a rally outside the Greek embassy in London.
The rally attracted supporters of the Golden Dawn movement, which was later banned by the Greek government for violent attacks on immigrants, ethnic minorities and political opponents.
In a recent interview with TalkTV on channel crossings as a Conservative councillor, Weatherhead suggested that he wanted the government to “look again” at the UK’s adherence to the 1951 refugee convention, but denied that racism played a role in his thoughts.
“There’s a lot of smart language being put out there by people pushing their own political narrative […] like ‘To object you must be racist, or xenophobic, or anti-this or anti-that’. Why must you be?” he said.
Weatherhead, who works as an administrative officer, denies claims that he was a senior member of the NBU or wrote an antisemitic blog, but admits he went to two NBU events.
“I completely agree that the optic [sic] of these pictures is poor and potentially upsetting for some,” he said. “For this I can and do sincerely apologise.”
Kent Conservative party whip, the councillor Dylan Jeffrey, said Weatherhead joined the party in 2018, and had been subject to background checks which did not reveal his previous associations with the NBU. “It is difficult because he changed his name, so there was no digital footprint.
“I knew he had stood for Ukip but all of this [regarding connections to the NBU] was out of the blue.
“There is no place for anyone in our party for people with the type of views associated with the NBU.
“He has been suspended by the national party chairman, Nadhim Zahawi, and they will conduct an investigation,” he said.
Gregory Davis, a researcher at Hope Not Hate, said: “The New British Union are an openly fascist group. They wear fascist uniforms, sell ‘Mosley was right’ stickers on their website and post racist, antisemitic comments.
“Councillor Weatherhead’s claims to be simply researching the group are unconvincing.”