Councillor quits in racism storm

UCKFIELD Liberal Democrats were this week celebrating the resignation of local Conservative Wealden councillor Geoffrey Sampson.

UCKFIELD Liberal Democrats were this week celebrating the resignation of local Conservative Wealden councillor Geoffrey Sampson.

It was the Lib Dems who highlighted Professor Sampson's controversial website article on racism. An article appeared in Sunday's Observer and led to a flood of demands for Professor Sampson's resignation from the council.

A by-election for the vacant Uckfield seat on Wealden will now take place.

Cllr Martha Whittle, a Liberal Democrat who also represents Uckfield, said her party had done the right thing in voicing concern over Prof Sampson's article.

She felt the matter had been handled speedily and said she was pleased he had resigned. 'I don't think that anybody who holds these sort of views has a place in any sort of government. I'm looking forward to the by-election.'

Uckfield Labour town councillor Duncan Bennett, who stood against Prof Sampson in the Wealden by-election in November, said he was disappointed there was not wholehearted condemnation from the leader of the Tory group on Wealden Council, Cllr Rupert Thornely-Taylor.

Best option

'Whilst Rupert Thornely-Taylor admitted that the best option was for Geoffrey Sampson to go I felt that was basically a face-saving exercise for the Conservative group.

'I was also a bit disappointed to hear him say that the work Mr Sampson had undertaken raised some very interesting points. I would like to say that another word could be used to describe the work or points in question ... repellant.'

Cllr Thornely-Taylor, from Fairwarp, said Prof Sampson had won a terrific by-election and done a great deal in a short time as a councillor. 'He has very much responded to the needs and aspirations of Uckfield people. He had a very strong view on town centre development and will be a great loss to Uckfield and I am very sad to lose him but it is just one of the facts of life that politicians at whatever level cannot discuss taboo things. This is not something that can be indulged in.'


Chairman of the council Norman Buck, Conservative, who lives at Buxted, said Geoffrey Sampson was 'very distressed at the amount of distress that he had caused and the only honourable thing to do was resign'.

Earlier in the week Cllr Buck stressed that the council view and his own view were strongly anti-racism and always would be as far as he was concerned. 'I will have no truck with racism whatsoever,' he said.

Cllr Buck's wife Cllr Silvia Buck, also a Conservative, won her Wealden seat at the same time as Prof Sampson. She said: 'I feel very sorry to have lost a colleague but under the circumstances I can appreciate he had no alternative but to resign. We worked very well together and I am very sorry to hear of his resignation.'