UK Politics

Tory councillor 'sorry' over Facebook 'Chaffrica' jibe

A Conservative councillor in Essex has apologised for any offence caused after he described the ward he represents as "Chaffrica" on Facebook.

Neil Rockliffe added: "Thinking that the scriptwriters of Eastenders must live on Chafford Hundred...has all the ingredients...murderers, rapists, concerned ethnic minorities, gay men etc, etc...."

Mr Rockliffe, who represents Chafford and North Stifford on Thurrock Council, said he had removed the posts.

The BBC has seen a screen grab of Mr Rockliffe's Facebook page.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Rockliffe insisted that the reference to "Chaffrica" was a comment about his garden, and how overgrown it is.

He added: "The comment had been blown out of all proportion and taken out of context. It wasn't a public comment and I'm not a career politician."

Asked to respond to his references to "murderers, rapists, concerned ethnic minorities (and) gay men," the councillor said: "If you look at the date of the Eastenders comment on Facebook and the episode that went out that night, they were issues in part of that programme."

He said he did not know how the remarks could have got into the public domain but he said they had now been removed.

He said: "I apologise for any offence caused."

Speaking before he had managed to speak to Mr Rockliffe himself, Councillor Garry Hague, the leader of the Conservative group on Thurrock Council, told the BBC: "We are taking this extremely seriously, we will take whatever action is necessary."

A spokesperson for the council refused to be drawn on the matter, but did acknowledge they were aware of it.

Thurrock Council is run by the Labour Party but there are 23 Conservatives on the council, and one councillor from the BNP.