Club chairman defends Hartlepool as racism row breaks out after UKIP's election gains
The chairman of Hartlepool United has taken on a political activist who has put the town under fire after UKIP gained votes the council elections.
The UK Independence Party added three seats to the two it already held in yesterday's vote, making it the second largest political party on Hartlepool Borough Council.
Party leader Nigel Farage has today praised the hard work of members in the town and says it is now the opposition party in the region.
The result led political activist, broadcaster and charity executive Mo Ansar to tweet: "Hartlepool, a town which was so paranoid and xenophobic it hung a shipwrecked monkey believing it to be a French spy, sees three UKIP gains."
The club's chairman Gary Coxall has taken issue with his claims, replying with: "Thanks for the response. Well, I have, very regularly, and I know the people to be the kindest around Mo."
He went on to add: "Never encountered any form of racism in H'pool. You're more than welcome to come to a game and see for yourself."
He went on to say he would happily hold a talk about the issue, but said: "Not from someone who makes such non-factual sweeping statements about his audience."
Mr Ansar has said he would welcome the discussion and said: "If you want to host my talk on multiculturalism and why we need to tackle racism and support minorities, you're on."
Mr Coxall went on to say he was finished with the discussion when Mr Ansar posted a YouTube clip taken of an debate on news network RT which saw him clash with controversial columnist Katie Hopkins over immigration, death and rape as they talked about immigration in Britain.
Mr Coxall tweeted: "Unreal. Seriously now?! Katie Hopkins as a speaker for Hartlepool! Another uneducated Tweet so I'm out. #thanks"
Mr Ansar has followed up the exchange by adding: "Good grief. People of Hartlepool, calm down.
"My comment about the monkey and UKIP is correct. Why has racism seen Hartlepool as an easy win?"
A host of people have also added their voice in support of the town.
Joe C Phillips, @Joecphillips, said: "Do you have actual experience of this in Hartlepool? Maybe you should comment on the anti-semitism in the Muslim world."
@awilson1908 replied to them stating: "@MoAnsar @MrGCoxall You're using an old debate to promote yourself. You've made comments about the people of Hartlepool yet never been there!"
UKIP’s Shane Moore secured the Headland & Harbour Ward, Bob Buchan was voted in to represent the Fens and Rossmere ward, while John Tennant won the seat in the Jesmond ward.
Mr Tennant said: "On a personal level, it seems to me that he's never been to Hartlepool and to say that is an outrageous statement."I'm on the side of Gary Coxall.
"We have been accused of being a racist party and I want to make it very clear that our immigration policy has nothing to do with the colour of people's skin.
"I would like to see him come to Hartlepool to see the town, find out about its history and its jobs, look at the fact we've got skilled people and to meet our residents and see how proud we are of the town."
He added the party wanted a single policy for people who wanted to move to the UK from anywhere in the world, not just the European Union, rather than the current approach.
Mr Farage, speaking to ITV News, said: "I think what the Hartlepool branch have shown is that if you are organised and you work the ground, you can achieve almost anything.
"Absolutely full marks for what they have done.
"But I genuinely believe what's happened in Hartlepool could happen in many other towns and cities across the North East."It may take time, but there's no question we are now the opposition and next time there's an election, a lot of Conservative voters will say there's not much point in voting Conservative if you want to beat Labour, you've got to vote UKIP."
A full list of the election results from last night can be found here.