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7 June 2012

Will Cameron suspend Tory councillor in race row?

Gerry Forsbrey declared: "I don’t want to be the nigger in the woodpile".

By George Eaton

Every so often, one is reminded how the Tory brand became so toxic. Last week, a Conservative councillor was suspended after telling a bisexual independent councillor, “with a bit of luck, you’ll get AIDS.” Then there was the Tory who suggested that those with “self-inflicted” illnesses (such as obesity) should be forced to move out of Surrey to free up NHS resources.

Now we learn of the case of Gerry Forsbrey, a Tory councillor for Spelthorne who declared during a council planning committee debate: “I don’t want to be the nigger in the woodpile.”

Forsbrey, a member of the council since 1998 and the cabinet member responsible for planning and housing, is yet to be suspended from the party. So far only the Evening Standard has covered the story but it deserves wider coverage.

I’m hoping to get a comment from the Conservative press office and from Forsbrey’s MP Kwasi Kwarteng tomorrow morning.

Update: Forsbrey has now apologised for the comment.

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In a letter to fellow councillors, he wrote: “I have spoken to the Council’s Monitoring Officer last night about the Planning Committee on 30 May 2012.

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“I recognise that it is an old fashioned phrase and that people may well take offence at the language.

“With hindsight, I should not have made my point with those words. I had no desire to offend anybody and would offer you my unreserved apology for any offence caused.”

Given that Cameron previously refused to suspend a peer who used the same phrase, it looks like Forsbrey’s position is safe.