York & North Yorkshire

Council leader defends decision to dress as Hitler

The leader of Harrogate Borough Council has defended his decision to go to a fancy dress party as Adolf Hitler.

Mike Gardner, who was pictured giving a Nazi salute at the party, has been suspended from the Conservative Party pending an inquiry into his conduct.

Mr Gardner said: "It was appropriate for the occasion. It was highly humorous and didn't offend anyone."

He has vowed to remain as leader of the Conservative-controlled council, serving as an independent.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Gardner said: "I was asked to go as an iconic figure from the year I was born. I was born in the war, my father was fighting as an RAF pilot, he was fighting the Nazis.

"I was brought up in that era but you made fun of them and why not. This is the nation, we make fun of things."

'Highly amusing'

Mr Gardner, who has been leader of the council for nearly eight years, said his outfit was intended as a joke and he did not mean to offend anyone.

"The council recognises two things when I'm a councillor. I've got high standards here but when I'm off duty so to speak in my pleasure time I can do what I want as long as it's not a criminal activity."

He added: "It was a private party, someone's birthday party, a highly successful event. I contributed to that, made it highly amusing."

Mr Gardner said he intended to carry on as a councillor.

"I am actually a very good councillor. I do like relating to people, that's why I do the job."

The images were taken from a Facebook page, which Mr Gardner earlier said was a "total violation of my privacy".

A council spokesman earlier confirmed that Mr Gardner was still leader but nobody from the local authority was available for further comment.

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