The wife of the city's former BNP leader has launched a scathing attack on the "racist" organisation after joining another political party.
Councillor Ellie Walker has become a member of Stoke-on-Trent City Council's new Community Voice group after several months spent as a non-aligned councillor. Mrs Walker quit the British National Party in March, along with husband, and former group leader, Alby Walker. But Community Voice leaders told Mrs Walker they would only accept her if she issued a public statement distancing herself from the far-right party.
And the Abbey Green ward member, who was elected as a BNP councillor in May 2007, has now said: "I was misguided to have ever been a member of the BNP and admit that I was part of an organisation that held racist views and that my association with the BNP reflected badly on me personally. During my time as a councillor, working closely with the community and all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, I have come to realise that the views of the BNP are wrong."
Mrs Walker also revealed her daughter-in-law is Sri Lankan, and that her grandchildren are of mixed race. She added: "While a member of the BNP, I realised that it was not what I thought it was, with many individuals only interested in hate and lies. Stoke-on-Trent is a fantastic, diverse and tolerant place to live and represent [and], if it is to move forward, it must continue to be so."
Community Voice's lead spokesman, Councillor Mick Salih, said he had no problem accepting Mrs Walker's application to become the party's sixth member. He added: "Community Voice despise and is totally opposed to the BNP and everything it stands for. Racism, indeed any discrimination, has no place in a modern, tolerant city like Stoke-on-Trent. Ellie has put all that behind her and earned admiration from all political parties across the city council when she not only left the BNP but exposed the hidden extremism."
The addition of Mrs Walker to the fledgling party makes it the fourth largest group on the council. It is behind 26-member Labour, the nine-strong City Independent Group and the eight-member Conservative and Independent Alliance. It is also now one place ahead of the five-member BNP group and the four-strong Liberal Democrats.
Current BNP group leader Councillor Michael Coleman said he was aware of Mrs Walker's move to Community Voice, but was sceptical about her denunciation of her former far-right connections. He said: "This has to be the biggest political conversion in the history of Stoke-on-Trent – to go from hard right to hard left. I have known Ellie a long time and all I can say is that her views fitted in well with the BNP and she was an outstanding councillor for us. I wish her well in her new group, but I don't accept any of her accusations about our party. She was elected on a BNP ticket, and I do wonder whether voters in her ward will accept her conversion or feel betrayed by it. I suppose this shows that we are gradually gaining political acceptance, as until now no other party would have accepted a former BNP member."
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