Senior Tory MP slams anti-gay Devon columnist for ‘repellent’ views

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Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston has condemned the “repellent” remarks of a Devon newspaper columnist who described homosexuality as an “aberration”.

The MP for Totnes is the latest Devon MP to criticise the South Molton News, a paper in the north of the county, for publishing a homophobic article by an anonymous columnist known as ‘Grave Turner’.

He wrote: “It was not homosexuality per se that caused the collapse of the great civilising empires of Greece, Rome, Britain, et al, but rather public acceptance of it was the exclamation mark that signalled the end of empire. With it came the weakening of the disciplined social structures that support law and order. Slowly, but surely, anarchy will take over.”

In response, Dr Wollaston described the article as “repellent”.

She told “I’m only surprised to see that flooding didn’t get a mention!” – a reference to the notorious sentiment of ex-UKIP councillor David Silvester – who famously blamed flooding on David Cameron’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage.

Dr Wollaston continued: “The author doesn’t represent South Devon at all. Like many MPs I very occasionally receive similar messages warning me that I must take action or be personally responsible for the collapse of Britain. I don’t choose to print them.”

Yesterday, Labour MP and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said it was “cowardly” to publish such an offensive article anonymously.

The MP for Exeter in North Devon told “It’s deeply depressing that some people still hold these views. And how cowardly to hide behind a cloak of anonymity.”

Sir Nick Harvey – the Liberal Democrat MP whose constituency includes South Molton – on Monday condemned the columnist.

He told “We can’t stop people from having these sorts of views, but they ought to be brave enough to put their name to it.”

Lib Dem St Austell and Newquay MP Stephen Gilbert also added his voice to the criticism.

He said: “It’s people with views like his that make our communities less safe.”

The Editor of the South Molton News, Paul Henderson, defended the decision to publish the article – and to withhold the author’s identity.

He said: “It is common practice for local, regional and national papers to run columnist under a ‘non de plume’.

“The writer is of advancing years and is extremely well educated, has been known to me for close to twenty years and is not from this area.”

Mr Henderson added: “I’d like to assure you I personally do not share Grave Turner’s views in this particular article.”

Dr Wollaston voted in favour of allowing same-sex marriage in 2013, writing that “people who are gay should be allowed to celebrate their love and commitment in a context that society understands.”

As Chair of the Health Select Committee, the former GP is one of the few Conservative MPs to be pushing for statutory sex and relationship education (SRE).