Tamworth's only independent councillor has been defending the far-right wing British National Party's policies for at least two years, the Tamworth Times has learned.
In an interview with the Times on Tuesday, Councillor Cooke said voting for the BNP was 'an option' for him that he would not be ashamed of. And, despite a call to arms in the defence of free speech, he said the organisation Unite Against Fascism should be banned from distributing anti-BNP literature in the run up to elections.
"I would like to see a law against it," He said.
As reported exclusively in the Times last week, Councillor Chris Cooke assisted the BNP's candidate at the Castle ward byelection, by printing and hand-delivering campaign material in the run-up to the poll. Now the Times can reveal that Coun Cooke has been posting pro-BNP comments on websites since at least 2006.
And, in an open letter to his constituents, Coun Cooke launched an attack on the pressure group Unite Against Fascism - branding them as Nazis.
Coun Cooke, who was until 2001 a high-ranking member of the anti-European United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and previously a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), told the Tamworth Times this week that he had not voted BNP in the past. Nor had he ever been a member of any party other than the SDP or UKIP. He said UKIP was the last party to which he had a political affiliation, and he left because he felt its members behaved in a way that made it more difficult for Britain to get out of Europe.
Coun Cooke added: "My position now is that I would vote for the person, not necessarily for the BNP as a party. It is certainly an option for me to vote for the BNP, and I would not be ashamed to do so. Neither would I be ashamed to vote for the United Kingdom Independence Party or, at the moment, the Liberal Democrats. I would not vote for either
In one of his internet messages, posted on the BNP's own message board in September 2005, Coun Cooke wrote of NHS salaries: "I hope when the BNP come to power (note - 'when'!) that they allow themselves to dig a bit deeper into such things as the NHS than just the pay of the top guys. The whole edificial empire needs an overhaul."
In response to threats by anti-fascists to disrupt a ballet performance by BNP member Simone Clarke in January this year, Coun Cooke said the campaigners were simply out to wreck the dancer's career. He described them as 'evil fascist bullies'. In September this year, he posted a staunch defence of the BNP in response to criticisms on another website - in which he described party members as 'sincere, brave and intelligent'.
Following a raid on shops selling hardcore pornography in Swindon in March this year, Coun Cooke posted: "I shall be voting BNP too. Not because their policy says boot them all out - it doesn't (bad news for those who want the BNP to kick all immigrants out perhaps?). And I've no wish to hurt innocent people. But it's only the BNP that will be tough on the criminal vermin who deal in this sort of **** and drugs. And if they are not our home grown vermin then - quite right - they should be booted out of the country - and their dependents they must take away with them."
In his letter to constituents, Coun Cooke described the UAF as: "A motley crew of --shall we say - alternative lifestylers and Marxists. It is by their own threatening behaviour and actions that these 'anti-fascists' show themselves to be the much truer Nazis."
Coun Cooke posted a response on the Tamworth Times website following last week's story, denying that he was defending the BNP in his letter. He said: "It was instead rubbishing a bullying leaflet that an obscure United Against Fascism (UAF) group had got delivered in this ward to pervert this by-election result."
He added: "My letter also makes very clear that I don't like bullies, and will always defend people's rights to take part in the democratic process - anybody! I would do the same for any party or individual."