Tory teen quits after being suspended by party over social media claims

Connor Dwyer making a speech at an anti-fracking campaign
Connor Dwyer making a speech at an anti-fracking campaign
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A teenage political activist suspended from the Conservative party has defended his use of social media to support young people’s campaigns.

Connor Dwyer’s Twitter messages landed him in hot water with Tory leaders, who claimed he was showing too much interest in other parties.

Connor, 16, today claimed suspending him from the party was “unjustified” and he has now quit the Tories.

He said: “I think it’s wrong, it’s seemingly a message that you’re not allowed your own opinions - it’s follow the party line or leave.

“Some of the things I campaign on in relation to young people go against the grain of the Tory Party.

“It wasn’t because I was trying to be awkward, I was working as a youth representative so I campaign on what young people want.

CONTROVERSY: 16-year-old Connor Dwyer

CONTROVERSY: 16-year-old Connor Dwyer

“I haven’t supported any other party in any way, but on young persons’ issues, if a party has tweeted about it I have retweeted it.

“So things like the Liberal Democrats supporting votes for 16-year-olds, retweeting that, the Labour Party opposing the scrapping of maintenance grants, I’ve retweeted that.

“It was nothing party political, it was on an issue-to-issue basis.”

A letter from Daniel Dewhurst, chairman of Preston Conservative Association, listed reasons why the executive council should consider revoking Connor’s membership.

I think it’s wrong, it’s seemingly a message that you’re not allowed your own opinions - it’s follow the party line or leave.

Connor Dwyer

The allegations include “actively campaigning against the Conservative government and party”, “recirculating anti-Conservative propaganda and recirculating left-wing news items” and “publicly attacking the Preston Conservative Party in an attempt to damage the name and/or demeanour of the party across social media and in public”.

Another reason listed was “working on a number of campaigns with the Labour Assembly; the Labour Party; the Green Party; Socialist Views; Owen Jones; Natalie Bennett etc, against the Conservative Party”.

Connor said he received the list of reasons almost a month after he was told he had been suspended.

He added he had met Natalie Bennett at an anti-fracking protest, but said: “I didn’t say I supported her, I posted a picture on Facebook of me meeting her because she’s party leader.

“Owen Jones, I retweeted something about maintenance grants.”

Connor has now resigned his membership, following what he described as “abhorrent” treatment from the association.

Connor’s mum April, who stood as a Conservative candidate in Ashton ahead of this year’s local election, was also sent a letter on July 1 saying she had been suspended from the party “pending formal expulsion proceedings”.

But she resigned ahead of those proceedings, and the reasons for her suspension have not been published.

Since April’s suspension, arguments have broken out on social media, with a tweet from the @PrestonCons account saying: “Socialist double agent caught in Conservative party. Upset that she’s been thrown out”.

April said she didn’t know why she had been suspended and said: “I think it’s very unfair.

“It’s very frustrating that I did all that work for the association - I ran a campaign to be a councillor in Ashton because I’m very public-spirited and that’s why I wanted to do it.

“To be treated like this is just abhorrent and for Connor as well, he was a really dedicated young member.”

Association chaiman Daniel Dewhurst said: “Unfortunately, on this particular occasion, a notable number of members within the Conservative Party had taken notices of the plethora of campaigns Mr Dwyer had pro-actively and consistently been involved in with the local Green and Labour Parties against the Conservatives.

“Therefore, PCA believes on review of the evidence submitted, that Mr Dwyer’s political affiliation is not similar to that of the Conservative Party, or its ideology and/or policies, and he would more suited to a political party on the left of the ideological spectrum.

“We strongly refute the allegations made by Mr Dwyer that his suspension was a direct result of his involvement in the anti-fracking protest.

“PCA is proud to host a wide spectrum of opinion in relation to environmental issues and we welcome local campaigning by our members across the city.

“It is, however, notable that ‘suspension’ in the PCA does not mean ‘expulsion,’ and that on review of the evidence submitted, Mr Dwyer willingly left the party.

“We wish Mr Dwyer all the very best of luck for the future, and we’re confident that he can find a position within a political party that better suits his political motivations.

“I understand the local Labour Party have been in contact with him, and I hope they can provide this young and talented campaigner with a position of their own.”