A THURROCK councillor has hit back at critics after it was revealed he was a far-right National Front campaigner in his youth.

Robert Ray, Aveley and Uplands ward councillor and the sole representative of the UKIP party in Thurrock, stood as a candidate for the National Front in Newham in 1977 and was also a local organiser.

Cllr Ray, regarded as a very hard working member of Thurrock Council and an active community member, told the Thurrock Gazette he severed all ties with the party years ago and it is thought that he joined UKIP before leader Nigel Farage said that former National Front and BNP members were not welcome in the party.

The National Front is a far right, racial nationalist, whites-only political party which was most popular in the seventies. Several groups still operate in the UK.

Cllr Ray said the news didn’t trouble him when it became public knowledge as he had declared it to his party long ago.

He said: “It didn’t phase me in the slightest as it was always in the public remit and it has been declared on the public record.

“It is nearly 40 years ago now and I made sure the party were fully informed before I joined - provided I hadn’t acquired a criminal record or been involved in any demonstrations or fracases.

“I was a member of the Conservative from the age of 17 but left them because of their stance on Europe.

“At the time of my involvement with the National Front it was clear that joining Europe was proving to be the mistake I thought it would be and at the time the only political party opposing the union was the National Front.

“Since I left I haven’t taken any notice of them. The party changed and I decided to leave.”

“It is no secret and I am not one to hide under the radar.”

The news came out last week on a Hope Not Hate blog post - run by former editor of anti-fascist Searchlight magazine, Nick Lowles.

He said: “Robert Ray told us his fellow Thurrock councillors didn’t know about his far right past and believed that they wouldn’t be interested in what was now history. We aren’t so sure about that Robert.”

UKIP was criticised recently when Mr Farage, who visited Thurrock last week, was accused of being a fascist and had sung Hitler Youth songs in his teen years. Mr Farage has denied the claims.

Earlier this year, Susan Bowen had been selected to stand in the Tintagel ward in north Cornwall but was thrown out of the party when it was discovered she used to be a BNP member.