Facebook ‘jokes’ land councillor in hot water

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A Ryedale councillor is facing calls to resign after posting a series of offensive “jokes” on his Facebook page.

Sherburn’s Conservative ward councillor John Raper shared posts mocking Muslims, homosexuals and other ethnic minorities over the course of 12 months.

The posts, seen by a constituent and passed on to The Mercury, included a picture of a pig with a caption stating “share this pig if your (sic) not celebrating Ramadan”.

Another included a ‘joke’ about people having a whip-round to procure petrol in order to allow three Muslim protestors to set themselves on fire.

In another post he shared a post to call on Britain to ban the burka and also published a picture of David Cameron promising to “hand-over” the country to a Muslim man.

Cllr Raper remained defiant when contacted by the paper.

He said his Facebook page was “private” before cryptically adding “Je suis Charlie, remember Lee Rigby” before hanging up. Fusilier Lee Rigby was killed in 2013 near his Woolwhich barracks by two Muslim extremists.

However, the person who came across the posts said that Mr Raper’s behaviour reflects badly on Ryedale and the council.

“Cllr Raper is in a position of responsibility and is there to represent each of his constituents equally,” said the whistleblower, who we have agreed to keep anonymous.

“By posting offensive comments, Cllr Raper clearly believes it is acceptable to make jibes based on religion, sexuality and ethnicity.

“What we are talking about here is not simply one joke made in poor taste, but a catalogue of posts spanning years.

They demonstrate a character that is wholly incompatible with the role of a councillor.

“He is completely unfit to hold public office and should resign immediately.”

The Conservative councillor also shared posts in support of UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s policies on immigration.

Amongst the councillor’s friends on Facebook are council leader Linda Cowling and Ryedale’s MP Kevin Hollinrake.

Ironically, Mr Raper had previously warned councillors to be careful of what they post online.

Speaking at a meeting in December 2014 when a motion to censure cllr Tommy Woodward was put before the authority, he said Facebook was “not secure.”

Cllr Woodward had made a post on Facebook following the death of a former soldier and game dealer.

Speaking during the meeting Mr Raper said: “Facebook and other suchlike are not secure forms for giving political statements or personal statements which could become political.

“The security of this social media is like a colander, if not even worse.

“We have been issued i-pads, we have been giving training in not making public comments that might attribute, or attract adverse comment.”

He said that Cllr Woodward should “apologise”.

He added: “If he cannot do that then I call for his resignation immediately.”

The controversy over Mr Raper’s posts come just weeks after the council found itself at the centre of national sexism row after its leader, Cllr Linda Cowling, was caught on microphone telling a colleague to image a man “without his clothes on”.

A Ryedale District Council spokesman said: “The Facebook page is not used by John Raper in his capacity as a member of Ryedale District Council. It is used for personal purposes only.

“The Members Code of Conduct only applies to members acting in their capacity as a councillor.”