FENLAND TV VIDEO: Tory police commissioner candidate who used the term ‘pikeys’ in Facebook post says it was ‘pub time humour among friends’
PUBLISHED: 17:55 03 May 2016 | UPDATED: 17:55 03 May 2016
Tory candidate Jason Ablewhite described critics attacking him over comments he posted on his Facebook page six years ago as being “desperate to muck rack”.
Cllr Ablewhite, leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, was quizzed over the Facebook page during an, at times, stormy hustings meeting for police commissioner candidates at the Oasis Centre, Wisbech.
All four candidates – Cllr Ablewhite, Councillor Dave Baigent (Lab), Nick Clarke (UKIP) and Rupert Moss-Eccardt (Lib Dem) - faced a packed hall for a two hour question and answer sessions.
Earlier this week a screen shot of a Facebook page from 2010 emerged in which Cllr Ablewhite described travellers as “pikeys” in an exchange of comments with fellow councillors Tom Sanderson and Ryan Fuller.
Last night Cllr Ablewhite was asked about “insults towards an ethic minority group by one of the candidates”. The other candidates quickly responded before the microphone was passed to Cllr Ablewhite.
He said: “This is aimed at me. When we talk about muck racking and going back six years of Facebook page accounts, it shows how desperate some people are.”
Cllr Ablewhite said: “I deal on a daily basis with some of the most vulnerable people in our society. In St Ives, we have a large Polish community, a large Bangladeshi community and a large Pakistani community yet that has never stopped us from having respect for each other.”
He said people needed to differentiate “between pub time humour among friends that is not full of hate, not meant in that term whatsoever, and take politics out of it and think about what is going on instead.”
One audience member told Cllr Ablewhite “you were a public servant at the time, paid out of the public purse; your mindset is racist. How can you say it is a bit of banter among friends?”
Cllr Ablewhite replied: “Again you blow it out of all proportions. At the end of the day if people have taken offence then I am truly sorry.”
He said that visitors to his home town of St Ives would find “hundreds of boards up for my election from Bangladeshis, Polish and Pakistanis. En masse they support me because they know what I have done for them. It as a simple as that.”
His agent Debbie Clark was in the audience and rose to insist that the post on Cllr Ablewhite’s Facebook page was private and part of a private conversation.
She described it as “light-hearted banter” and someone had gone back six and a half years to find the post.
“I can honestly say I have called the Irish tinkers because that’s what they are commonly known as,” she said. “It does not mean I am not racist; my step son is Irish.”
Councillor Steve Tierney said it was “despicable” Labour supporters had placed the question at the same time as their party was involved in an anti Semitic scandal.
Nearly 100 turned up for the hustings – the candidates agreed it was the largest turn out during the campaign, outnumbering audiences in Cambridge and Peterborough.
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