Harlow local elections: Conservatives retain control of Essex council after 'unsuspending' councillor facing Islamophobia allegations

Cllr James Leppard was elected as a Conservative Party councillor in the recent elections
Cllr James Leppard was elected as a Conservative Party councillor in the recent elections -Credit:Harlow Council

A key election in Essex was won by the Conservatives after including a candidate currently being investigated over Islamophobic comments. Harlow Council was a contested battleground with the Labour Party putting up a strong fight against their Conservative rivals.

Local Tory MP Rob Halfon described the outcome, which saw the Tories’ majority on the council slashed from nine to one, as “the biggest comeback since Lazarus". Labour MP Pat McFadden, meanwhile, said the result had been on a "knife edge".

The Tories had 17 councillors elected after the local elections on Thursday (May 2). That included James Leppard who was recently suspended by the Conservative Party for alleged Islamophobic comments shared on social media, The Mirror reports.

READ MORE: Live local election results for Essex as first winners announced

ALSO READ: The Essex areas where police officers are tackling a rise in shoplifting

The Conservative Party declined to say if the councillor had been unsuspended to give them victory. A Conservative spokesman told The Mirror: “We are looking into these claims.”

A Labour source said told the paper: “Have the Conservatives quietly readmitted a man they recently suspended for racist remarks? If they have, they should urgently come clean with the public after saying they condemned this vile behaviour. After a complete collapse in 2021, Labour has made significant gains in Harlow and made real progress in the places we need to win the next general election.”

Mr Leppard was elected to serve on the Church Langley South and Potter Street ward. He received the third-highest number of votes (826) followed by Labour's Christine Gallacher who was backed by 568 votes.

Last month, a Tory spokesman said: “Harlow Conservatives condemn any form of racism. Mr Leppard was suspended as soon as the matter was brought to our attention and a formal investigation into the allegations has now been launched.”

Mr Leppard, Harlow Conservatives and Harlow Council have been approached for a comment by EssexLive. None were able to respond immediately to our request for comment.