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Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 18:53 GMT 19:53 UK
MP defends race comments
John Townend MP
Townend: Denies rebuke from Conservative leadership
The Conservative MP who caused outrage with an attack on immigration has sparked fresh controversy by talking of a politically correct "Gestapo police".

John Townend last week caused uproar by suggesting immigrants were undermining the UK's "homogenous society".

It is vitally important that we fight against this sinister policy of the politically correct and the race relations Gestapo

John Townend
Conservative MP
Mr Hague described Mr Townend's remarks, made in his East Yorkshire constituency as "totally unacceptable" but refused calls for the whip to be withdrawn from the MP.

Interviewed on Wednesday, Mr Townend denied reports he had been given a personal reprimand over his speech.

No rebuke

"Nobody's rebuked me," he told Sky News.

"I'm a rough, tough Yorkshireman and I can give as good as I get.

"I'm sorry of any offence but I think it's vitally important that we fight against this sinister policy of the politically correct and the 'race relations Gestapo' that these things which bother the people should not be discussed."

Cabinet Office minister Mo Mowlam attacked Mr Hague for not taking decisive action against Mr Townend.

She renewed her call for the whip to be withdrawn from the backbencher.

Ms Mowlam cited newspaper reports which said the Conservative Party claimed Mr Townend had been "firmly rebuked" for his remarks.

She argued Mr Townend had now contradicted his party leader and had revealed the truth.

Mo Mowlam
Mowlam: Hague 'fundamentally weak"
"If John Townend is to be believed and William Hague has taken no action, this is the latest devastating example of William Hague's fundamental weakness and failure to control his party."

A Tory spokesman countered that Mr Hague had given a clear statement on the issue and rebuked Mr Townend "in the strongest possible terms".

"Matters have been dealt with very firmly by the leadership of the Conservative Party," he added.

'Not against debate'

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said no one opposed debate on such issues.

"The question is do we conduct it with accuracy, sensitivity and understanding or do we conduct it in a way likely to fuel prejudice and cause distress," he said.

Mr Townend's original comments came a week after Mr Hague signed a cross-party pact not to exploit the race issue in the general election campaign.

"We will judge the Conservative Party on whether they act to uphold those standards or take no action when people break them."

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30 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Tory MP triggers new race row
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Hague rebukes Tory MP over race
22 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Veteran Tory MP to step down
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