PinkNews Exclusive. UKIP Councillor Donna Edmunds has been denounced by her own party for saying “iron fist” equality laws are unnecessary – with the matter set to be discussed at UKIP’s National Executive Committee.
She made the comments in a Facebook post this afternoon, having already released a statement attempting to play down earlier suggestions that business owners should have the right to turn away people based on their sexuality, gender or race.
Ms Edmunds, a district councillor in Lewes and MEP candidate for the South East, made the remarks about business owners in an online forum.
She had been asked to state whether she supported the views of Oxfordshire Councillor David Silvester.
Mr Silvester was suspended and then expelled from UKIP after blaming the floods of December 2013 and early this year on David Cameron’s decision to legalise equal marriage.
Ms Edmunds said she disagrees with Mr Silvester’s views but added: “I believe that all business owners, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, should be allowed to withhold their services from whomever that choose whenever they choose.
“It’s their business. Why should they be forced to serve or sell to anyone?”
Home Office minister Norman Baker, Lewes’s Liberal Democrat MP, tweeted about his surprise at the capacity of UKIP repeatedly to pick candidates with “abhorrent” views.
— Norman Baker MP (@NormanBakerMP) March 5, 2014
And the Conservative Party Press Office tweeted: “UKIP MEP candidate & Cllr says businesses should be able to turn away women, gay & black people. @UKIP do? Nothing.”
— CCHQ Press Office (@CCHQPress) March 5, 2014
In a statement released today Ms Edmunds said: “I regret what I wrote and can see how an essentially libertarian stance could be broadly misinterpreted.”
However, in a subsequent statement published on Facebook, Ms Edmunds suggested existing equality laws guarding against homophobic discrimination were unnecessary.
“I do not agree with legislating on this matter,” she wrote. “If we are to be a tolerant society, we need to tolerate things we don’t like. That is, in fact, the very definition of tolerance. Pressure from society will force these shops to shut, and these views to dispell. We don’t need the iron fist of government legislation banging down to tell us what to think.”
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, UKIP Chairman Steve Crowther gave a furious response to the latest comments by Ms Edmunds.
“Whilst we are a libertarian party this kind of ultra-libertarianism really goes beyond what is acceptable,” he told PinkNews.co.uk.
“Society has to have rules and it is certainly not UKIP’s policy to allow people to refuse service to each other on the grounds of race, sexuality etc.
“This debate has been unhelpful. It is a matter that will be discussed by our NEC.”