Anti-racism campaigners are urging Boris Johnson to suspend a Tory MP and launch an “urgent investigation” as pictures are revealed showing her with two far-right activists.
Dehenna Davison, the new MP for Bishop Auckland, seen as a rising star in the party, was snapped holding a County Durham flag with Andrew Foster, a man described by Hope Not Hate as an “an out-and-out neo-Nazi”.
The image appears to have been taken on January 31 at a party in a pub, where the MP had organised a party celebrating Brexit.
Davison, 26, also faces questions from Hope Not Hate about her alleged association with Colin Raine, a former Tory activist banned from the party after HuffPost UK revealed he was behind a far-right protest and made Islamophobic comments online. Raine and Davison were also pictured together at the Brexit bash at the pub.
Davison has told HuffPost UK that the photos were taken at a public event. After we presented her with information about Raine’s and Foster’s online comments and posts, she said she “in no way whatsoever” condones “the views highlighted of the individuals concerned”.
Hope Not Hate says it has been following the activities of Foster and Raine, a former Bishop Auckland Conservative council candidate, for some time.
Matthew McGregor, Hope Not Hate’s campaigns director, describes the two as “extreme individuals” who “should be unwelcome at any mainstream political party gathering”. Based on the photos, he says, they appear to “move closely with the local Bishop Auckland Conservative Association and the new MP”.
An online account, thought to be Raine’s, alleges he met with Davison in April at a public event – a month after the party declared he was banned from rejoining. On December 12, Raine also posted a clip of Davison purportedly filmed at a local pub as the exit polls came in, describing her as “our candidate”.
Hope Not Hate’s investigators have unearthed Facebook pictures thought to be of Foster burning a Quran and posing next to a racist message that reads “F*CK P*KIS”.
The Bishop Auckland activist, which the charity says has attended rallies organised by the English Defence League and Britain First, is alleged to have commented on a picture of Adolf Hitler on Facebook, saying: “We need some more of this spirit in our town mate … show these f***ers once and for all.”
A Twitter account that allegedly belonged to Foster and has since been suspended also called the dictator a “great man” and wished him happy birthday.
Raine is also thought to have organised a protest, outside ex-MP Helen Goodman’s office, which included members of the far-right group the Democratic Football Lads Alliance and an English Defence League splinter group known as the North East Infidels. Foster is among those who appeared to be at the protest in 2017.
Raine posted in April he was “lucky enough to meet up and have a chat” with Davison and, on December 12, when the MP was elected as part of Boris Johnson’s landslide victory, Raine said he “got a bit emotional” when Davison was elected.
Raine previously wrote on Facebook about “aggressive muzzies” who he claimed were praying in public to “provoke a reaction”.
In the 2017 post, he added: “If it is a fight they want I feel they will soon get one.” He has also called those who backed remaining in the European Union “traitors”.
McGregor, from Hope Not Hate, said: “These allegations are extremely serious and warrant the Conservative Party launching an urgent investigation, during which time Dehenna Davison should be suspended until there has been a finding.
“Davison must answer serious questions about her connections with far-right figures Colin Raine and Andy Foster. These extreme individuals should be unwelcome at any mainstream political party gathering, but it appears that they still move closely with the local Bishop Auckland Conservative Association and the new MP.
“The controversy surrounding these two men means that it is hard to believe that the local party did not know who they were.
“Davison must explain why she was associating with these two individuals.
“It is important for our politics generally, and the Conservatives specifically, that the party aggressively rejects any association with the far-right.”
Davison released a statement, which said: “These photos were taken at an event open to the public and I in no way whatsoever condone the views highlighted of the individuals concerned.”
The Conservative Party has confirmed that neither Raine nor Foster are members of the party.
HuffPost UK has contacted both men to offer them the opportunity to comment.