The 2,700-strong Conservative Debating Forum, which can be joined by invitation of existing members or by permission of its administrators, is thought to be the second largest pro-Tory group on Facebook. It carries several posts a day regarding Muslims or Islam, accompanied by comments such as “send them back” and “we should ban Islam”. Others suggested that Islam represents an “threat to our country” to Britain and that only someone with a “mental illness” would convert to the religion. One member simply stated, “I am Islamophobic”.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is a regular target of the group’s anti-Muslim sentiments. One referred to Khan as a “smug moron” adding that it is “disgusting how un-British the capital has become”. Others demanded “expel the London Mayor”, “it stops at an Islamist mayor” and “let’s get building a wall around the ghetto, Londonistan”.
These revelations will add to pressure on the Conservative Party after anti-Islamophobia campaign Tell MAMA and the Muslim Council of Britain both called for an independent investigation into Islamophobia and racism in the party this week.
As of Friday morning, the group listed ten sitting Tory MPs and 25 Tory councillors amongst its membership, including grassroots favourite Jacob Rees-Mogg. There is no suggestion that any of the MPs posted inappropriate material, and several have told the Observer that they had no knowledge of being signed up and have since left after being alerted to the group’s content.
All have become or remained members of the group since July 2017, when the BBC ran an article on pro-Conservative Facebook groups that reported the Conservative Debating Forum’s targeting of Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott for its “harshest criticism”. The article gave an example of one post which used an image to liken Abbott to an orangutan.
Although the image mentioned by the BBC now appears to have been deleted, our investigation discovered other explicit images featuring Abbott that were racist and sexist in nature. Other comments made racist comparisons between the Shadow Home Secretary and a gorilla, and called for her to be deported.
Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller is also the subject of racist abuse in the group describing her as “a damned foreigner” and an “immigrant pipsqueak”, with comments calling for her to “go home” and threatening that she will “get what she deserves”.
In one of many attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, a moderator posted a comparison between the Labour leader and Hitler that referred to his “fascination with Islam”.
Attacks in the group are not only reserved for political opponents of the Conservative Party. Ruth Davidson’s pregnancy announcement triggered a wave of homophobic comments, with posters suggesting her pregnancy was “sick” and represented “degeneracy”. Others stated that “homosexuals shouldn’t raise children” and said “you make your filthy bed and you lie in it”. Another referred to diver Tom Daley’s announcement he was having a baby as a “form of child abuse”.
Following the group’s exposure it has changed its name to the Conservative Politics Society and released a statement promising to draw up “articles of conduct” followed by a review of the group’s membership to expel anyone that may have breached the new rules.
Red Roar has drawn up a full list of notable people listed as members of the Conservative Debating Forum as of the morning of Friday 9 June 2018. We reiterate that there is no suggestion that any of those listed below have posted inappropriate material or condone any of the views expressed in the Conservative Debating Forum group, and that several have already informed the Observer that they had no knowledge of being signed up and have since left the group after being alerted to its content.
- Jacob Rees-Mogg MP
- Ben Bradley MP
- Julian Sturdy MP
- Stuart Andrew MP
- Glyn Davies MP
- James Duddridge MP
- Vicky Ford MP
- George Freeman MP
- Kevin Hollinrake MP
- Andrew Rosindell MP
- Stephen Canning, Essex
- Gary Harding, Gravesham
- Diane Marsh, Kent
- Paul Seeby, Broxbourne
- Victoria Wilson, South Staffordshire
- Victoria Wilson, South Staffordshire
- Richard Musgrave, North Yorkshire
- Dave Dempsey, Fife
- Glenn Jordan, Plymouth
- Jacob Young, Middlesborough
- Ray McLean, Moray
- Simon Morrall, Birmingham
- Gail Lockett, Staffordshire Moorlands
- Karl Arthur, North Yorkshire
- Bob Gardiner, Ryedale
- Graham Hutchison, Edinburgh
- Adam Kealey, Bay of Colwyn
- Leighton Rowlands, Vale of Glamorgan
- Andrew Jarvie, the Highlands
- Graeme Brooks, Inverclyde
- Kieran Munroe, Midlothian
- Thomas Dyer, Lincoln
- Paul Doughty, York
- Roger Patterson, West Lindsey
- Steve Bell, Brighton
- Paul Osborn, Harrow
- Andrew Boff, Conservative London Assembly Member
- Matt Snape, former Conservative councillor who resigned after he retweeted a joke featuring Hitler
- Mike Payne, former Conservative councillor suspended after sharing an article that called Muslims “parasites”
- John Strafford, Chair of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy
- Patrick Sullivan, Editor of the Parliament Street conservative blog
- Baron Michael Bates, former Tory MP and Minister