A local politician in the United Kingdom is being investigated following accusations that he made racially derogatory statements heard in a recently leaked audio recording.
Public outrage prompted a probe by the Pembrokeshire County Council in Wales to investigate whether Pembrokeshire Council member Andrew Edwards said, “All white men should have a Black slave.”
A 16-second audio clip published by this week by Nation Cymru allegedly captures him saying Black people are of “lower class” than white people.
The audio was sent to the monitoring officer at Pembrokeshire County Council, Rhian Young.
Young believed it to be Edwards and as a result, recommended an investigation be started by his own party.
“Nothing wrong with the skin color at all. (…) I think all white men should have a Black man as a slave or Black woman as a slave, you know,” a male voice said to be Edwards proclaims.
“There’s nothing wrong with skin color, it’s just that they’re lower class than us white people,” the remarks continued.
The Conservative Party councilor has been made aware of the audio and the Pembrokeshire County Council investigation and has taken steps to have an independent party look into the clip.
“I am aware of such serious allegations being made against me,” the representative for the Haverfordwest Prendergast ward and school governor said in a statement adding that he has self-referred the allegation to the Public Services Ombudsman.
“It is now in the hands of legal experts and the ombudsman,” Edwards said. “It would be unfair on the process for me to comment.”
While the ombudsman’s office has confirmed the self-referral was received, it did not say if it has launched a formal investigation.
A spokesperson for the council said the conservative group is aware that the councilor has enlisted the support of the Public Services Ombudsman but said: “It would be inappropriate to comment further.”
During the Tuesday, April 11, council meeting, the group leader, Di Clements, said Edwards excused himself from the party while the investigation was underway. He did not say if Edwards would return after the probe was complete.
“These are extremely serious allegations. It has been mutually agreed that Cllr Edwards will leave the group while the matter is under investigation,” Di Clements stated.
In addition to stepping away from his party, Edwards has deactivated his social media accounts and declined to speak to the media.
Some of his peers, like the Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies in the Senedd — the Welsh Parliament — called the remarks “disgraceful” and “abhorrent.” He also sought to make clear the views on the audio are “not shared by the Welsh Conservatives,” the BBC reports.
Many took issue with the audio. A spokesperson for the opposition party called the views expressed on the recording “disgusting.”
The representative said, “Racism has absolutely no place in our society, let alone in the views expressed by an elected member on Pembrokeshire County Council.”
Twitter user Elizabeth Rose wrote, “Andrew Edwards is a racist who does not need to be in a position of power. Yet, he’s STILL a Councilor, a magistrate, and a school governor! What message are you sending? We condone racism and SLAVERY in 2023? Sickening.”
Another Twitter user said he doesn’t care what party Edwards is in, “Actions like that make my blood boil.”
Mike McGrother tweeted, “So if this IS genuinely the conservative councilor & magistrate Andrew Edwards and he doesn’t deny the statement… I expect every party member to condemn and disown him or you are guilty by association.”
Edwards has been representing the Haverfordwest Prendergast ward since May 2022 and serves also as a magistrate.
He also is listed in Pembrokeshire County Council’s Register of Members’ Interests as a Freemason.
In his day-to-day job, Edwards serves as a hairdresser at Freestyle Barbers shop in Haverfordwest and owns a pub. He also serves as a governor at the Prendergast Primary School in Haverfordwest.
Should the ombudsman take the case, the investigation is expected to last about six weeks. If it is confirmed that he is the voice on the audio, the Adjudication Panel will note that Edwards broke the Code of Conduct of his office and would be disqualified from holding the office.
He would not only have to relinquish his seat but would not be allowed to hold office for another five years.
It is unclear if any of his other positions would be impacted by the decision.