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"Nazi" business: Conservative Party suspends councillor photographed giving Nazi salute in Adolf Hit


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Conservative Party suspends councillor photographed giving Nazi salute in Adolf Hitler costume



By Richard James

Last updated at 7:04 PM on 22nd October 2010



A Conservative council leader from Harrogate had been suspended by the party after being photographed dressed as Adolf Hitler and giving a Nazi salute.


Councillor Mike Gardener had earlier been deselected after images of him at a fancy dress party were leaked onto the internet via the social-networking website Facebook.


His colleagues in the Conservative Party have described his behaviour as 'unacceptable' and it was announced on Friday he had been suspended and an investigation launched.


article-1322939-0BB80EFB000005DC-543_476x367.jpg Outrage: Councillor Mike Gardener was photographed dressed as Adolf Hitler and giving a Nazi salute at the party


Mr Gardener has responded to the outrage caused by the photos by claiming he had been the victim of a smear campaign.


Despite being unable to stand as a Conservative in the next election, he remains leader of Harrogate Borough Council and a ward member until the end of his office term.


Commenting on the incident, Heather Adderley, Chairman of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Conservative Association, said: 'For Councillor Mike Gardner to dress up as he did is totally unacceptable and we condemn it.


'Councillor Gardner was deselected and as a result will not [be] standing as a Conservative candidate next year.


'A new candidate has already been selected and is busy working in the ward.'







Mr Gardener has defended himself and his actions, saying: 'I don't dress up as a Nazi normally. This was an exception. I am not a Nazi and I don't behave like that.


'It was a private birthday party and the dress code was the war. Do I feel ashamed? No. It was fancy dress and a piece of fun.


'The invitation was to depict the year in which you were born, I was born in the war.'


He added that he checked with the organiser of the party beforehand whether his outfit would be acceptable.


He said: 'There were a lot of people at the party who are in the armed forces or the MoD, it was not offensive to them or to the family.


'I was brought up in the war, my mother and father were heavily engaged in fighting the Nazis. We grew up hating the Nazis.


'M'y father was a pilot in the war, and my mother worked in the munitions industry. The fight against Hitler and the Nazis dominated my life in childhood. In that context everyone was greatly amused.


article-1322939-0BBA3658000005DC-199_472x299.jpg Town Hall: A spokesman for Harrogate council confirmed Mr Gardner was still council leader


'If I had done this as a councillor I would expect to be shot. I have done nothing wrong, I am sorry that offence has been taken but it does not impinge any standard in the council.'


Mr Gardener, however, blamed his political rivals for leaking the photo on the internet, claiming that it had been done in a 'nasty' and 'dubious' way.


The Tory councillor said he could not remember doing the Nazi salute or having his photo taken at the party.


In a statement to his fellow councillors he said: 'Now we don't hate the Germans but we do make fun about the Nazis - so to fit in with the evening I hired a German or Nazi uniform for that specific occasion.


'There were many weird and wonderful outfits and it was a very successful piece of fun or pantomime as intended and I offended nobody by dressing as Hitler.'


The controversial pictures have now been taken off Facebook.


A spokesman for Harrogate council confirmed Mr Gardner was still council leader, adding there was 'no issue with the members' code of conduct'.


Mr Gardner was suspended from his local Conservative party in July, following the incident in May.


A spokesman for the Yorkshire Conservatives regional office said on Friday: 'Councillor Gardner has been suspended as a member of the party as a result of this incident and an investigation has been launched.


'He is sitting on Harrogate council as an independent, not as a Conservative.'

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