A SUSPENDED Tory councillor has explained his thinking behind attending a meeting of an extremist protest group.
Blaine Robin, a Southend councillor for Kursaal ward, landed in hot water with party leaders after he was spotted at a rally organised by the English Defence League.
His Conservative membership was suspended last week, pending an internal investigation.
Mr Robin argued he gone to the meeting simply to find out more about his constituents’ views, but admitted he would “turn back the clock” if he could. He said: “I went on the invitation of a resident who was keen to show that racism isn’t in his make-up.
“I’m an academic with an inquisitive mind. The hope was to have access to hard-to-reach groups or complex groups.”
Although Mr Robin attended the meeting in Southend in August, his party membership was only suspended last week when the furore among political rivals reached boiling point.
Tory leaders admitted they had already known about Mr Robin being spotted at the rally, but said they had to take action after the information started spreading across the internet.
In a filmed excerpt of the meeting, EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is seen to be apparently praising Mr Robin for being willing to listen to “the free message of the English Defence League”.
However, Mr Robin insisted he had no links to the movement and said he would take more care of how his actions were perceived.
He said: “What I’m learning is I have many hats. I’m a Christian, I’m a black man, I’m a councillor.
“I’ve learned I have to be responsible, wherever I go.”
Mr Robin faces a national office hearing to find out if he can remain a Tory Party member. However, he refused to criticise the decision to suspend him.
He added: “When I grew up, the Conservatives presided over a climate when the views and role of black people were placed at a minimum. But when I joined, I said I wanted to make a difference so that history didn’t need to repeat itself.
“The Conservative Party, for me, represented a party that pushed forward and brought in everybody from all walks of life.”