While the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth applauded leader David Cameron for backing gay unions it seems further down the road one Tory councillor missed the message.
David Clutterbuck a 72-year old Conservative councillor at Bournemouth Borough Council has infuriated local political opponents by suggesting that a modern day Noah’s Ark would have to allow gay animals on board.
His statements seem a far cry from Mr Cameron’s rhetoric regarding gay rights, but the councillor insists the comment was a joke in reaction to an email circulation amongst council colleagues about the bureaucracy the biblical figure would encounter nowadays such as seeking planning permission.
His email said: “I imagine now it would be illegal to only have animals of the opposite sex!”
Officials at the Liberal Democrat run council failed to see the funny side and suggested Mr Clutterbuck undergo equality training.
LibDem councillor Mike Carlisle said: “The comment even in fun is at best childish and at worst shows that certain local Conservatives are locked into the distant past. I urge if we are truly going to embrace diversity all members should have compulsory equality training.
“I would urge those enlightened Conservative councillors, and I know there are some, to challenge Councillor Clutterbuck on his attitudes to minority communities.”
Another LibDem, Claire Smith called for an apology but Mr Clutterbuck was unrepentant, insisting it was a joke, he told the Dorset Echo: “I was merely stating that another problem Noah would have come across today was having all animals of the same sex.
“The animals went two by two for obvious reasons but to appease the equality people he would have had to have some gay animals on board. It was a joke.
“It wasn’t aimed at homosexuals at all and it wasn’t meant to be offensive.”
Since Mr Cameron became leader of the Conservatives, the party has aimed to shed its previously homophobic image by selecting gay candidates for seats and supporting wider equality through civil partnerships and the incoming goods and services bill.
He used this week’s party conference to criticise homophobic lyrics in music and to back civil partnerships.