Cyprus Mail

Cypriot Tory axed for burkas and binbags joke

The photo that caused the offence

A GREEK CYPRIOT Tory councillor has been kicked out of the party for sharing an “inappropriate” picture on Facebook that suggested burkas resembled binbags.

Chris Joannides, who sits on Enfield council, was deselected as a candidate for May’s local elections and expelled from the party for 12 months in a ruling by Conservative Central Office.

The photo showed a woman and child dressed in burkas standing next to two binbags. It was captioned: “I saw her standing there and I told her she had three beautiful children. She didn’t have to get all pissed off and threaten me. It was an honest mistake!”

Joannides defended the comments — which he shared but did not write — as “blokeish banter” and said he was frustrated by Central Office’s decision which came after he was cleared by the police and his local party.

Enfield council’s opposition Conservatives had withdrawn the whip from him after printouts of his Facebook account were shown to group leader Michael Lavender. Joannides said: “The picture was shared on my Facebook profile by a friend and I deleted it straight away, but someone took a photo of it before I could take it down.

I was investigated by the local association and cleared. I was investigated by police and cleared. I was reselected to stand in May by the local branch. Then I got an email from Conservative Central Office at the 11th hour telling me they were suspending my membership for 12 months, effectively barring me from standing. The rug has been pulled away from me.” Police dropped their case against him in January following a six-month investigation.

Joanne McCartney, Labour’s London Assembly member for Enfield and Haringey, said: “This was completely inappropriate for an elected representative.

Residents have to be confident that people who make decisions on their behalf have the well-being of everyone at heart. The comments undermine that trust and confidence.”

A Tory Party spokesman said: “Chris Joannides is not endorsed as a candidate in the forthcoming local government elections. No appeal is permitted under party rules. Furthermore, Joannides is expelled from the party for a period of 12 months. He may appeal against this decision and it is our understanding that he intends to do so.”

Joannides, who represents Grange ward, became Britain’s youngest Greek Cypriot councillor when first elected in 2006. He said he was planning take a break from local politics during his suspension, but added: “I’m a loyal Conservative. I’ll be back in 2018.”

Andreas Papaevripides, president of the World Federation of Overseas Cypriots and vice-chairman of Conservatives for Cyprus, said: “I am astonished that Central Office has taken this decision which will undoubtedly damage their chances in the May elections.”

Joannides was initially shopped to the party by a fellow Greek Cypriot. The woman told the Cyprus Mail at the time that what he had written was insulting “to the very people who gave him his position”. “He has no place on Enfield Council, and xenophobia has no place in today’s society,” she added.

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