Tory MEP and councillors rally around sacked homophobe

Several prominent grassroots Conservatives have come out in support of Philip Lardner, sacked by David Cameron for saying homosexuality was "not normal".

Conservative Home called this week for consistency from the Lib Dems – demanding action against a parliamentary candidate for making the same kind of comments “which got a Lib Dem frontbencher sacked”. Will they demand the same standards from their own party leader?

David Cameron has come under pressure for sacking Philip Lardner but refusing to remove Chris Grayling or Julian Lewis for their offensive remarks on gay rights. But if Cameron was applying the consistency that Conservative Home calls for, a number of Tory council candidates would also be for the chop.

Several prominent grassroots Conservatives have come out in support of Lardner, the sacked parliamentary candidate for North Ayrshire and Arran who said homosexuality was “not normal”. Tim Montgomerie, editor of Conservative Home, has claimed that Lardner’s views are “shared by many conservative Christians”, adding his suspension seemed “a disproportionate response”.

Some of his commenters, among them a Tory MEP, council candidates and councillors, go even further. Roger Helmer MEP said:

Philip Lardner is a sound Conservative and a good friend. Of course the Party in Scotland is free to disagree with his remarks, but in suspending him it shows a disturbing intolerance for dissent.”

Cllr Colin Gore, leader of the Tory group on Oadby and Wigston Borough Council in Leicestershire said:

“Are Christian Conservatives now not allowed to have views on gays that people in Islington do not agree with?”

Cllr John Chilver of Aylesbury Vale District Council said:

“This candidate should be reinstated immediately… Have we become so cravenly submissive to the dictates of political correctness that we are unable to defend a Christian moral conscience?”

Cllr Sam Chapman of Chorley South said:

“I don’t understand what Mr Lardner has done wrong.”

And Shaun Bennett, assumed to be the Tory candidate for Hartshill and Penkull ward in Stoke-on-Trent who comments regularly on Conservative Home, said:

“I’m disgusted by Cameron’s blatant populism on this issue… I thought the candidates comments were well measured and reasonable actually… Cameron is in the last chance saloon, and he’s doing himself no favours with us rank and file party members.”

It has also emerged that Lardner has close links to another Scottish Tory candidate with disturbing views on gay rights and race. Richard Cook, even higher up in the Scottish Tories – can be seen sharing a joke with Lardner and the deputy leader of the Scottish Tories Murdo Fraser. Cook’s biography on the Conservative Party website lists him as “Director in Scotland of the Campaign Against Political Correctness”.

Yet he told the Record on Sunday that “he is no longer involved” in the group. The CAPC’s idea of humour can be seen here. Cook is also a big fan of “blacking up” – calling people who object to the practise “oversensitive” – and is an opponent of gay adoption, writing:

“It offends me greatly to see a system that benefited me so greatly abused by a local authority in the name of political correctness.”

He has been on official visits abroad with William Hague. He remains a Tory Party candidate.

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