BBC News: Election 2010 BBC News

Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Tuesday, 27 April 2010 17:03 UK

Tory candidate Philip Lardner suspended for gay comment

Philip Lardner
Mr Lardner had been fighting the North Ayrshire and Arran seat

Tory election candidate Philip Lardner has been suspended for describing gay people on his website as "not normal", the party has confirmed.

Scottish Conservatives chairman Andrew Fulton described the Ayrshire North and Arran candidate's comments as "deeply offensive and unacceptable".

"These views have no place in the modern Conservative party," he said.

The primary school teacher's name will remain on ballot papers because it is too late to remove his nomination.

He will still be listed as a Conservative candidate, although a party spokeswoman said they had made clear they no longer supported him.

Mr Lardner had been reinstated to the party in 2008 after a previous suspension over claims he made racist comments by portraying former leader of white-rule Rhodesia, Ian Smith, as a hero.

On that occasion, Mr Lardner did not deny making the comments but suggested they had been taken out of context.

These comments are completely unacceptable and betray the nasty, judgmental truth behind the Tory campaign
Chris Bryant
Europe Minister

His latest suspension was provoked by comments in the "What I believe in" section of his website, under the sub-heading: "Homosexuality is not 'normal behaviour'."

The former Territorial Army soldier wrote of his support for the controversial "clause 28", which was introduced by the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher and banned public bodies from promoting homosexuality.

Last year, David Cameron apologised for Tory efforts to stop the measure being repealed by Labour and his party have since indicated they would consider allowing same-sex marriages, if elected.

But Mr Lardner wrote: "As your MP I will support the rights of parents and teachers to refuse to have their children taught that homosexuality is 'normal' behaviour or an equal lifestyle choice to traditional marriage.

"I will always support the rights of homosexuals to be treated within concepts of (common sense) equality and respect, and defend their rights to choose to live the way they want in private, but I will not accept that their behaviour is 'normal' or encourage children to indulge in it.

"Toleration and understanding is one thing, but the state promotion of homosexuality is quite another."

The comments have since been removed.

Labour's Europe minister Chris Bryant, who is gay, said: "These comments are completely unacceptable and betray the nasty, judgmental truth behind the Tory campaign."

Earlier this month, shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling suggested people who ran bed and breakfasts should have the right to reject homosexual guests.

He later said he did not support a change in the law to allow this, rather that he was being "sensitive to the genuinely held principles of faith groups in this country".

Mr Lardner had been challenging Katy Clark's Labour majority of more than 11,000. Other candidates in the seat are Liberal Democrat Gillian Cole-Hamilton, the SNP's Patricia Gibson and Louise McDaid of the Socialist Labour Party.

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