PRESSURE is mounting on the South Durham Conservative Party to apologise after its leading member posted a message which has been described as “grossly offensive” to black people and those from ethnic minorities.

Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party leaders have called for Councillor Pauline Culley, Darlington Borough Council leader Councillor Heather Scott and Darlington MP Peter Gibson to issue a statement after Cllr Culley posted a Facebook message stating “White slaves were sold for centuries”.

The message stated: “All our ancestors took slaves, sold slaves, or were slaves. You’re not special. Black people owned and sold slaves. Asian people, native people and Middle Eastern people owned and sold slaves.

The Northern Echo:

Cllr Pauline Culley's Facebook post

“Everyone’s ancestors participated in slavery, it wasn’t exclusive to white people. Stop trying to make people feel guilty for things they didn’t do.”

Opposition councillors said the message, which featured a picture of white women being restrained by Arabic men in a desert, appeared an attempt to undermine the Black Lives Matter movement. When questioned over the post, Cllr Culley, Cllr Scott and Mr Gibson have all declined to comment.

However, opposition members said Cllr Culley, who has represented Mowden in Darlington since 2014 and is chair of South Durham Conservatives, had previously shown a lack of understanding to those suffering elsewhere, with a Facebook post stating “Black Labs matter”. They added in 2017 she had displayed insensitivity, claiming her ward resembled a “third world country” due to the council cutting the grass once a month.

Labour group leader Councillor Stephen Harker said he would write to Cllr Scott asking for an explanation. He said: “It is quite clear they are aware there’s an issue with the post as they have taken down the entire Facebook page. They can’t just pretend this hasn’t happened. This post is beyond belief and grossly offensive - it belittles the issues facing minorities to an appalling extent.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Anne Marie Curry said while factually correct, the post ran counter to the issue that black people and ethnic minorities were facing disproportionate treatment. She said the Tories needed to clarify their position. Councillor Matthew Snedker, Darlington Green Party leader, said the post had demeaned Cllr Culley’s position as chair of South Durham Conservatives and would only serve to inflame race issues.