Newport Conservatives launch investigation into homophobic comments claim

AN investigation has been launched after it was alleged that some Conservative council election candidates in Newport told members of the Islamic community not to vote for the Liberal Democrats because they were “a party of gay men”.

The chair of Newport Liberal Democrats, Oliver Townsend, made the accusation in a letter sent to Newport Conservatives and Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies.

Newport Conservative group has said it is conducting an internal investigation into the matter, but that it had received no evidence to back the claims up.

In the letter, which was also posted to Twitter, Mr Townsend said:

“As a party we believe there is space for many different views. If you are LGBTQ+ or a Muslim, both communities know fear and prejudice across the world.

“Together we are strong, and when hate is whipped up between communities, we are weak.”

As a gay man, Mr Townsend said the alleged comments had left him feeling “ashamed” and as if he was back at school.

Mr Townsend said Conservative candidates had made the comments to a Liberal Democrat party member while canvassing.

Cllr William Routley, who represents Langstone, and is a member of the Newport East Conservative Association, said:

“It is an unsubstantiated claim. Going to the court of public opinion first is like putting the cart before the horse.”

“At the end of the day, we are a fully inclusive party and people who know us as a party, know us as that.”

Later in the letter Mr Townsend asked for a “personal face-to-face apology” from the person who is said to have made the homophobic comments.

He added:

“Neither of our parties performed well in Newport, and we have nothing to gain politically from this.”

In the Newport City Council election, three Conservative candidates lost their seats and two Liberal Democrats lost theirs.

Ray Mogford, Deputy Chair of the Newport East Conservative Association, said:

“We will conduct an internal enquiry, as would be expected, and we have been in touch with the Chair of the Lib Dems.

“We signed up to the fair election pledge and as far as we know we have acted respectfully during the campaign. We’re currently waiting on more substantial evidence from the Lib Dems and we hope to conclude the investigation as soon as possible.”

He added:

“We have a totally inclusive organisation and the evidence for that is there. If there’s a problem, it will be with one or two individuals.”

Mr Mogford said a statement on the issue will be made after the investigation.

At the end of his letter Mr Townsend said:

“This is also about other young aspiring politicians who are waking up today dreaming of a life of public service, who may have worries and fears about putting themselves out there.

“They need to know that they are valued, loved and protected in politics. Not from scrutiny or disagreement, but from underhanded abuse and attacks.”

Rhiannon James Local Democracy reporter

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