Hackney North Lib Dem candidate dropped over ‘clearly offensive’ tweets

Ben Mathis. Picture: Hackney Liberal Democrats

Ben Mathis. Picture: Hackney Liberal Democrats - Credit: Archant

Ben Mathis, who up until last night had been running as the Liberal Democrat candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has been suspended from his party over “clearly offensive” tweets.

The row over Mathis' past statements has been brewing since the student newspaper East London Lines published tweets made by the activist, which included references to "hot young boys", "whiny bitches", and conjuring images of far-right activist Katie Hopkins losing "several kilos of unpleasant fat…[with] an axe or a guillotine".

The candidate had apologised three days ago as well as posting a full apology on social media evening, though had simultaneously struck a defiant tone on Twitter, saying: "I'm on Grindr too, you know. I bet if you find something good on there you'll make the nationals."

Mathis now finds himself suspended from his party, which accuses him of bringing it "into disrepute", though it is too late after candidate nominations for the Liberal Democrats to remove him from the ballot paper.

The former London Overground worker is now running as an independent candidate, and has accused Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson of "throwing him under the bus".

He said: "And so here we are - after 13 years as a Lib Dem, I find myself without a party…

"Suffice to say, despite some people's best efforts to define me, I am neither a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe (no, seriously) or anything else they've tried to paint me by pulling stupid jokes out of context, wilfully misunderstanding and assuming everyone else operates on the same low standards they do.

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"Some of my old tweets contain language I'm not proud of, but mostly they're just the product of someone who talks a lot of shit and doesn't get easily offended - except by poverty, ignorance and conformity.

"Anyone who wants to ask about any specific tweet, feel free to do so - but if all you want to do is threaten me or try to drive me to self-harm, don't bother. It's been tried!"

Mathis had previously apologised for his statements, describing them as "not things I would say or write now", while underlining that they were written "some years back", and "in very specific contexts".

The now-independent candidate had added that the "ill-advised" messages were not as important as the "fight to stop Brexit", though this did not turn out to be the view shared by his party.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: "Ben Mathis, candidate for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has been suspended from the Liberal Democrats.

"Public posts on his Twitter account between 2011 and 2018 have been drawn to our attention that are clearly offensive, including about those with protected characteristics.

"We consider them to bring the party into disrepute and to be in material disagreement with the fundamental values and objectives of the Party.

"Because this has come to light after the close of nominations, it is not possible to remove Mr Mathis from the ballot paper, but he is suspended from the Liberal Democrats."