Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Saturday, 14 June 2008 15:12 UK

Tory quits posts over Italy slur

Alun Cairns, AM, Conservative shadow educations minister
Mr Cairns apologised immediately on air after his comment

A leading Conservative Welsh assembly member has resigned as the party's education spokesman after likening Italians to "greasy wops".

Alun Cairns apologised immediately for the "inappropriate" comments made during a weekly political discussion programme on BBC Radio Cymru.

Contributors had been asked to say who they would be supporting during the Euro 2008 tournament.

Mr Cairns also stepped down as chair of the assembly's finance committee.

During the programme, Dau o'r Bae (or Two From The Bay), on Friday one contributor mentioned she had written a note saying "boring" next to Sweden, and "nice flag" next to Portugal on a list of teams.

When she added that she had written "nice food" next to Italy in the list, Mr Cairns said: "I've written greasy wops."

I have the utmost respect for Italy and Italian people but accept that my comments, no matter how inadvertent, were unacceptable
Alun Cairns AM

Presenter Vaughan Roderick immediately invited the Tory politician to apologise, which he did, and the programme ended.

In a statement on Saturday afternoon, Mr Cairns, the South Wales West AM resigned as shadow education spokesman and chair of the assembly's finance committee.

"In light of the inappropriate comments I made yesterday regarding Italy I believe I can no longer continue in these roles in the national assembly," he said.

"I very much regret the remarks and wish to apologise once again for the offence they may have caused.

"I have the utmost respect for Italy and Italian people but accept that my comments, no matter how inadvertent, were unacceptable.

"I support all efforts to tackle xenophobia and racism and will continue to promote equality and tolerance."

Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne AM said he had accepted the resignation.

"While his comments were completely out of character they were unacceptable," said Mr Bourne.

"Alun is a long-serving, hard working, and well-respected politician but knows his comments were inappropriate and regrettable."

Italian fan after 1-1 draw with Romania on Friday
Italy are struggling to qualify for the quarter final stages of Euro 2008

He said the Conservatives would not tolerate any form of discrimination.

Mr Cairns, who is standing at the next general election, described himself on his own website as a "conviction politician and has a record of standing up for what he thinks is right"

Former Labour cabinet minister Ron Davies, who is now the director of the Valleys Race Equality Council, said Mr Cairns had accepted his invitation to join their annual meeting next month.

Mr Davies said: "I would be delighted to do that work with him because having worked with him in the past I know there isn't a racist bone in his body.

"These comments he has made are inexcusable but we have to put them in the context of what was a light-hearted discussion around football and was meant, I'm sure, as laddish humour."

He added: "We need to raise his level of appreciation about how sensitive race issues can be."


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