Gay businesses call for Brighton councillor’s resignation

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

Brighton and Hove’s gay and lesbian business community has called for the resignation of a Conservative local councillor after he was reported to have labelled gay people as paedophiles at a city council party last week.

Peter Willows a Hangleton and Knoll ward councillor, faced widespread condemnation over the remarks and has been suspended from the local party pending a police investigation and Standards Board for England inquiry.

In an open letter to The Argus, 27 hoteliers, pub and bar owners, and entertainers, demanded his resignation, “We call on Councillor Willows to resign from the council. He is not fit to make decisions which affect the city’s 35,000 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) population.”

“Whilst collectively we are supporters of all political parties and indeed none, we cannot help but note that repeated comments have been made against the city’s diverse communities by Peter Willows.

“We ask the leaders of all the political groups of the city council to reassert the commitment of the council to continuing the progress made in recent times with the city’s diverse communities. This work must not be deflected as a result of these comments.”

Mr Willows last week admitted making the remarks but claimed he was drunk, “I don’t have the same hatred for the gay community that I have for paedophiles. But I don’t like them.

“They seem to want the rest of us who don’t agree with what they do to accept whatever it is they want.

“I don’t think the world should be that way.”

Brighton and Hove Conservative party leader, Brian Oxley, told The Argus “Pending the investigations we are not making any further comment.”

This is not the first time Mr Willows has spoken out against Brighton’s gay community, in August 2005, he wrote a letter to The Argus criticising Gay Pride, “The Pride this year was a huge success for Brighton and Hove and for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

“The gay police association headed the parade from Madeira Drive through the city to Preston Park. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force were represented for the first time ever. Organisers say the crowds of 120,000 poured into the city and spent lots of money in pubs, bars, restaurants, and businesses throughout the city.

“Great. In these days of political correctness, people are reluctant to voice their own opinions but I’m not. To Pride operations manager PJ Aldred and to all the helpers on the day, I say congratulations.

“In The Argus on Monday, August 8, we had a coloured photograph edition with pages of some of the more outrageous costumes – one man exposing his rear end for everyone to see and a lady also exposing everything from the waist upwards. And this is in the procession.

“If these two people were walking along the seafront in such a manner, would those gay police officers on frontline duty on the seafront arrest them and charge them with indecent exposure in a public place?

“It makes you think, doesn’t it?

“The gay and lesbian community is very fragile to any type of criticism. But someone has to point these things out.

“Councillors and especially MPs are frightened to death of criticising the gay and lesbian community.

“At the end of the day, it’s the vote that counts, you see.

Chris Bryant, gay Labour MP for Rhondda, told “It’s depressing to realise that such bigoted prejudice is still alive and well in the heart of the Tory party.”

Liberal Democrat MP, Evan Harris, told “Everyone knows these attitudes are still alive and well in some parts of the Conservative Party.

“It will be interesting to see what action is taken locally and nationally since a Sussex MP (Howard Flight) was dismissed before the national elections for talking about taxation.

“I wonder whether bigotry counts as a sackable offence!”

Brighton gay Green councillor Simon Williams said: “As a co-proposer of the recent successful motion in the city council to fly the rainbow flag for the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May, I think it’s very sad that a city councillor in this gay friendly city could object to a day that commemorates innocent victims of violence and prejudice and to make such an offensive slur on gay men.

“Councillor Willows is obviously entitled to disapprove of homosexuality but to object to a day that commemorates innocent people who have been murdered or suffered violence just because of their sexuality is totally inappropriate behaviour. I’m pleased that Cllr Willows has apologised for the comments and his Tory colleagues are distancing them from his remarks.

“However the LGBT community should not pay too much attention to these fringe views and we need to be careful to avoid giving them undue attention in the media by hysterical and adversarial counter-comments.”

A police spokeswoman said: “We have taken statements and we are investigating to see if any breach of public order offences have been committed.”

Mr Willows told he would not be making any comment on the issue.