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Tory councillor suspended for calling gay Labour group ‘limpwristed’

Jessica Geen March 30, 2010
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A Tory councillor on Wirral borough council has been suspended for making a remark about “limpwristed” boys.

Seacombe councillor Denis Knowles saw a group of LGBT Labour activists campaigning for lesbian MP Angela Eagle and wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday: “…an unusual group of boys leafleting in Seacombe this weekend, of the limpwristed variety and definitely NOT local”.

Mr Knowles used to be a Labour councillor. But last May, he dramatically quit the party to join the local Conservatives. He said that Labour had made mistakes and was dividing, rather than uniting people.

Local newspaper reports from the time state he was a “senior aide” to Ms Eagle. Her office has refuted this.

Labour activists seized his Facebook remark as evidence that the Tory party is “still homophobic” and Ms Eagle demanded to know what the national Conservative leadership would do with Mr Knowles.

She said: “I was speechless when this was first brought to my attention because I am proud that my re-election campaign is being supported by a cross section of the local community – men and women, young and old, gay and straight.

“I want to know what the local Conservative Party and the national leadership are going to do about it.”

She has now written to David Cameron to complain about Mr Knowles’ status update.

LGBT Labour co-chair Simon Wright said: “It’s shocking – but sadly not entirely surprising – that Tory councillors still feel it’s ok to be a bigot. LGBT Labour is proud to support Angela Eagle, who is a fantastic local MP and a great champion in parliament for all matters of equality.

“This reminds us that, lurking behind Cameron’s attempt to rebrand his party, the Tories still have the same old-fashioned and offensive attitudes.”

Mr Knowles has now deleted the remark from his Facebook profile. Earlier today, he wrote: “Hate the way things can be misconstrued by nasty people with an axe to grind.”

He had not responded to calls for comment by the time of publication.

Instead, he updated his profile to say: “I would like to officially apologise for any offence I might have given to anyone with comments I have made on this site. I removed said comment as soon as I realised that I might have inadvertently upset someone.

“As a trade unionist and member of the Labour Party for over 30 years I have never held views that could be construded as being homaphobic [sic]. Having recently joined the Conservative Party, I am proud to say that I serve all of the people regardless of colour, creed, or sexual preferences.

“I am horrified that someone has hacked into my personal Facebook page and either misunderstood or misconstrued for political reasons, or otherwise, something that I have said in all innocence.”

Mr Knowles has now been suspended by Wirral Conservative Group.

Group leader Cllr Jeff Green said: “Cllr Knowles removed the comments and has apologised for any offence that has been caused.

“I have taken the additional step of suspending his membership pending an investigation into his remarks. The Conservative Party has changed and, by this swift action, we have demonstrated that change.”

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