Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Saturday, 22 August 2009 12:49 UK

Tory sorry for women MPs 'joke'

Houses of Parliament
Alan Scard said his comments about female MPs were tongue in cheek

A Conservative Party member has apologised after suggesting only attractive women should become MPs.

Gosport Conservatives Association chair Alan Scard, 63, said the comments were "tongue in cheek" and he thought the Channel 4 interview was over.

The association is tasked with finding a new parliamentary candidate for the town, after MP Sir Peter Viggers stood down during the expenses row.

He faced criticism for claiming £1,645 on expenses for a floating duck island.

His gardening claims totalled £30,000 and he retired at the direct request of party leader David Cameron.

To be honest I don't have a hard and fast view one way or another if our candidate should be a man or a woman
Alan Scard

Mr Scard told the BBC: "The comments I made were tongue-in-cheek and after I thought the interview with Channel 4 was over.

"My own personal opinion is that it depends on the individual.

"To be honest I don't have a hard and fast view one way or another if our candidate should be a man or a woman.

"We are looking for a candidate with a spark which would attract constituents in Gosport to vote for them."

'Proud parent'

He issued a statement on Friday evening saying: "I apologise unreservedly if it's caused any offence.

"As a proud parent of two girls, the last thing I would ever want to do is say something sexist.

"We will choose the best person to represent Gosport young or old, male or female, entirely on merit."

During the Channel 4 News interview, he was asked about David Cameron's push to get more women elected.

Mr Scard said: "If they are attractive, yeah, I would go for it.

"I know it's a sexist thing to say but you could get the blokes saying, 'Oh you know, I would vote for her because she's really attractive', but then the other women say 'Oh I don't like her, she's too attractive'."

Tessa Jowell, Minister for the Cabinet Office, branded his comments "deeply offensive".

"In the last two weeks we have seen Tories denying homophobia exists, condemning the NHS and now this blatant sexism."

A Conservative Party spokesman said that all female candidates were selected on "merit".

He said: "These remarks were inappropriate and unacceptable, and Alan Scard has rightly apologised."

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