A fundraising appeal, set up by a Tory MP and backed by others, has raised money to help a Conservative backbencher who was convicted of racist abuse.
On Saturday, Beckenham MP Bob Stewart surrendered the Conservative whip while he considers an appeal against his conviction for a racially aggravated public order offence, a Government source has said.
Mr Stewart, 74, who is also a former British Army officer and United Nations commander in Bosnia, was found guilty at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday of racially abusing an activist by telling him to “go back to Bahrain”.
By Sunday evening, a crowdfunding page set up by Brendan Clarke-Smith, the Conservative MP for Bassetlaw, had raised £4,296 – more than enough to cover Mr Stewart’s fine plus legal costs – and was growing towards its £50,000 target.
Mr Clarke-Smith wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Having hit the original target in less than 24 hours, we are raising funds to fight the outrageous charges/conviction brought against Rt Hon Colonel Bob Stewart DSO MP and the legal costs associated with it.”
On Friday, Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring found Mr Stewart guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence and handed him a fine of £600, with additional legal costs bringing the total to £1,435.
Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson urged people to back the crowdfunding effort for “war hero” Mr Stewart.
Mr Anderson wrote a message of support on the fundraising page, urging his friend to “keep your chin up old soldier”.
🎖️🇬🇧 Having hit the original target in less than 24 hours, we are raising funds to fight the outrageous charges/conviction brought against Rt Hon Colonel Bob Stewart DSO MP and the legal costs associated with it. You can support him by donating here https://t.co/ugNau1lWuC
— Brendan Clarke-Smith MP (@Bren4Bassetlaw) November 5, 2023
He also tweeted: “Col Bob Stewart. Is a friend and a war hero. I speak with Bob most days and share the odd tipple. After 4 years of being an MP I have got to know Bob really well.
“It’s obvious that Bob has seen things in battle that no other person would want to see. He has served his country and been decorated at the highest level for bravery.
“This man is now deemed a criminal in his 70s after a lifetime of public service. His legal bills are huge so please can you help?”
The fundraising page states it is “a disgrace to see a case such as this going to court, let alone for a decorated military hero and veteran” and “this is no way to treat our veterans”.
Col. Bob Stewart.
Is a friend and a war hero. I speak with Bob most days and share the odd tipple. After 4 years of being an MP I have got to know Bob really well. It's obvious that Bob has seen things in battle that no other person would want to see. He has served his country…
— Lee Anderson MP (@LeeAndersonMP_) November 5, 2023
Marco Longhi, the MP for for Dudley North, said Mr Stewart was “there for us when we needed him”, adding that he was “happy to support this campaign and proud to call him my friend”.
Danny Kruger, the MP for Devizes, also tweeted the he was “proud to support this appeal to help Col Bob Stewart’s legal challenge against his conviction”.
He described Mr Stewart as “a national hero and a decent man” and also thanked Mr Clarke-Smith for leading the appeal where excess donations are earmarked for the Royal British Legion.
Mr Stewart was convicted after the court heard he had become embroiled in a row with a protester outside the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House in Westminster on December 14 last year.
Mr Stewart had been attending an event hosted by the Bahraini embassy when Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei shouted “Bob Stewart, for how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?”
During a heated exchange, Mr Stewart replied: “Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss. Go back to Bahrain.”
He also told Mr Alwadaei: “You’re taking money off my country, go away!”
Mr Goldspring, despite mentioning Mr Stewart’s “immense positive character”, remarked: “I accept he is not racist per se, but that is not the case against him.
“Good men can do bad things.”
The MP told the court that he is “not a racist” and that it had been “extremely offensive” for the demonstrator to suggest he was “corrupt”.
Mr Stewart, a former British Army officer who was stationed in Bahrain in 1969, said he is a “friend” of the Middle Eastern country.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have led calls for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to act against the “totally unacceptable” behaviour of Mr Stewart.
A Government source told PA news agency on Saturday that Mr Stewart has informed Chief Whip Simon Hart that he wishes to surrender the party whip until a possible appeal against his conviction is resolved.
Mr Stewart’s office has been contacted for comment.
The Conservative Party said it had no further updates on the situation.