Worthing councillor suspended by Conservatives over old Twitter messages

A Worthing councillor has been suspended by the Conservatives pending an investigation after old Twitter messages came to light.

Northbrook councillor Russ Cochran
Northbrook councillor Russ Cochran

Russ Cochran was elected in the Northbrook ward back in May.

Between 2012 and 2015 a Twitter account with the handle Russ Cochran - Rusty_cee posted a number of publicly viewable messages which used the words queer and gay as derogatory terms and also contained an offensive term for travellers.

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The account mentions his campaign prior to May’s election in the first person.

On Monday morning, the Herald contacted both Mr Cochran and the Conservatives about the content of the Tweets.

Hours later the Conservatives suspended Mr Cochran’s membership of both the Worthing Conservative group on the council and of the Conservative Party.

In a statement, Mr Cochran said: “I have been made aware that a number of tweets that I sent between 2012 and 2015 have been identified as potentially containing offensive language. I can confirm that these tweets were sent between myself and close friends.

“I acknowledge that some six or nine years later a third party reviewing these tweets, in isolation and not in context, may view them as unacceptable.

“I recognise that my suspension by the Conservative Party is a proportionate response and I welcome the thorough investigation that will follow.

“During this time, I will continue to represent my constituents in Northbrook ward as an independent councillor, ensuring that their views are heard and they are well supported.”

On his social media page dedicated to his activities as a councillor, he said yesterday: “Political hand grenades lobbed today.”

Underneath he posted what he described as ‘parting gifts’, which consisted of several snippets of quotes by members of the council’s Labour group.

Leader of the Conservative group Kevin Jenkins, took over as leader of the council last week.

Yesterday he said: “I have today received allegations made against Cllr Russ Cochran and I have with immediate effect informed him that his membership of the Worthing Conservative group on Worthing Borough Council has been suspended.

“Cllr Cochran will now sit as an independent member of the council until an investigation into these allegations is concluded.

“As leader of our group I expect high standards from all our members and where concern is raised it will be subject to scrutiny and investigation.”

The Conservatives now have 17 councillors, while Labour has 15, the Lib Dems have three, with Mr Cochran the lone independent.

There is one vacancy for the Marine ward due to be filled at a by-election on Thursday December 2.