A Conservative councillor who made a remark on Facebook about “limpwristed boys” has been cleared of homophobia.
Denis Knowles, a councillor for Seacombe in the Wirral, made the comment in March after spotting gay Labour activists handing out leaflets for lesbian Labour MP Angela Eagle.
Mr Knowles wrote: “An unusual group of boys leafleting in Seacombe this weekend, of the limpwristed variety and definitely NOT local.”
When his remarks were reported, senior Labour figures including Harriet Harman demanded his sacking and he was suspended after apologising for the comments.
A two-month inquiry was carried out by Matthew Sephton, the chairman of Conservative gay group LGBTory.
He said that although Mr Knowles’ remarks reinforced stereotypes and were “inappropriate”, he was satisfied that they were not homophobic.
Mr Sephton said: “After a thorough investigation of the allegations, however, I am satisfied that Cllr Knowles was not guilty of homophobia and that he made an off-the-cuff remark which he thought was an innocent jibe at the Labour Party. I believe that he thought this remark would not be as controversial as it in fact was.
“In coming to this conclusion I have also taken into account Cllr Knowles’ past record of working closely with openly-gay and lesbian elected representatives of both Labour
and Conservative parties and LGB charity, Stonewall.
“These events should serve to remind all elected representatives from both Conservative and other political parties, that words which reinforce stereotypes can and do cause offence and that they should think carefully before saying or doing anything in their position of public trust.”
Mr Knowles said: “I fully understand that the comments I made on Facebook offended a number of people. This was never my intention. I apologise unreservedly, once again, and reassure colleagues and the people I represent, that there will be no reoccurrence. I accept the recommendations of the inquiry.”
“The Conservative Group was right to suspend me. I hope that it is now possible for me to move forward and concentrate on my work as a councillor for Seacombe and Poulton, representing all members of the community – gay or straight”.
Richard Angell, the campaigns officer of LGBT Labour, the group which was the target of Mr Knowles’ remark, said the decision to reinstate the councillor was “incredibly cynical”.
He told PinkNews.co.uk: “I think it’s disappointing that the Conservative Party doesn’t take homophobia seriously. He clearly said it and the party are meant to have changed.
“If it was any other ‘ism’, he wouldn’t have just got a convenient suspension over an election period. It would have been taken seriously.”