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Wednesday, January 6, 1999 Published at 19:21 GMT

UK Politics

'Family values' group to close

Michael Ancram: Reported to oppose Dr Rogers' group

A right-wing family values pressure group led by a failed Tory parliamentary candidate is to close following criticism from within the Conservative Party.

Dr Adrian Rogers, who is a GP, lost the Exeter seat at the last general election to Labour's Ben Bradshaw.

[ image: Adrian Rogers: Lost the Exeter seat with one of the biggest swings in the south west]
Adrian Rogers: Lost the Exeter seat with one of the biggest swings in the south west
Dr Rogers told BBC News Online he had now decided to close the Conservative Family Institute, which campaigned against homosexuals and abortion.

The 1997 Exeter election contest was marked by bitter attacks by Dr Rogers on Mr Bradshaw, who is openly gay.

But it was the intervention of his own party that has forced the disbandment of the Conservative Family Institute.

Dr Rogers acted after Gay News reported that Conservative Party Chairman Michael Ancram was looking at ways to force the organisation to drop "Conservative" from its title.

[ image: Archie Norman is pushing through Tory Party reforms]
Archie Norman is pushing through Tory Party reforms
The party's chief executive, Archie Norman, also condemned Dr Rogers' views on gay candidates.

Dr Rogers insists gays and lesbians - people who practise what he calls "deviant lifestyles" - should not be allowed to stand for the Conservatives.

Dr Rogers wrote to his members to explain his decision.

"Most of the institute members are all keen or extremely experienced Tory activists, some have promising careers ahead of them," he says.

"I do not want to let any association with me spoil their political chances. Neither do I wish to embarrass the party which, probably going through libertarian times, will still eventually survive and remain the pro-family party.

"For this reason, unless I hear from you with profound compelling argument, I propose to close the Institute."

Dr Rogers urged members to continue to fight for family values. He stressed that he had come under no pressure from the Tory Party to close the institute.

[ image: Gary Streeter:
Gary Streeter: "Family values in a modern context"
But he adds: "Quite frankly I feel their attitude to homosexual candidates is completely wrong, the central party has done nothing to help support those of us with pro-family views and if the party does not want a Conservative Family Institute to exist it is a terrible reflection on the current leadership."

A Conservative Party spokesman told BBC News Online it had not received any formal notice of Dr Rogers' intention to wind up his organisation.

But, despite the embarrassment caused by the views of Dr Rogers' group, he said the Conservatives would remain wedded to the concept of family values.

"It remains a central principle of Conservative politics and we've pushed the government very hard to recognise that, in particular through their taxation policies, and we will continue to do so."

Tory MP Gary Streeter, who heads the Conservative Christian Fellowship, said Dr Rogers had done a "valuable job" promoting family values over many years.

The MP rejected Dr Rogers' claim that the Conservative Party had abandoned family values, pointing out that he was a member of a task force set up by William Hague that was looking at "how we can promote family values even more".

[ image: Ben Bradshaw: No comment on the downfall of his former rival's organisation]
Ben Bradshaw: No comment on the downfall of his former rival's organisation
But they had to be seen "in the context of an open, modern and tolerant society - we can't exclude people from being candidates on the basis of their sexuality", Mr Streeter told BBC Radio 4's PM programme. "No one has asked Adrian to close down his organisation," he insisted.

But Paul Barnes of the Tory Campaign For Homosexual Equality (Torche), which has around 500 members and claims to be the only expanding section of the Tory party, said it was "absolutely delighted" the institute was being wound up.

"It was an embarrassment to the party for many years, and made it appear homophobic," said chairman David Allen. "It's about time it was consigned to history."

Mr Bradshaw, the MP for Exeter, declined to comment on his former rival's position.

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