Zac Goldsmith to speak for think tank chaired by anti-gay councillor

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Tory Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith is to speak at an event for a think tank whose chair was suspended over a homophobic rant.

The chair of the right-wing Bow Group, Benjamin Harris-Quinney, was suspended by the Conservative Party in May this year, after PinkNews published a recording of him delivering a homophobic speech at an anti-LGBT event in Moscow.

In the recording, he claimed “the LGBT lobby” has created a “climate of fear” – and aims to “reduce the age” that children receive sex education in order to “promote the homosexual lifestyle”.

A senior Tory source told PinkNews at the time: “Ben Harris-Quinney is a homophobe and a menace. This sort of vile politics has no place in modern Britain.”

The Bow Group’s patrons also distanced themselves from the Chair – but he still appears to be acting in his official capacity for the group, quoted as Chairman in Bow Group reports as recently as last week.

Despite the controversy, and the group’s calls for Tories to ‘tactically’ vote for UKIP before the election earlier this year, Tory MP Zac Goldsmith has been announced to speak at the group’s summer reception.

Mr Goldsmith, who is the frontrunner for the Conservative nomination for Mayor of London, will speak at the event next Monday. Tickets to the event cost £25.

An invite said: “We are delighted to invite you to join Zac Goldsmith MP aboard the magnificent battleship HQS Wellington for The Bow Group’s Summer Reception on Monday 10thAugust.

“Free drinks and canapés will be provided overlooking the Thames and London, where Mayoral Candidate Zac Goldsmith will set out his vision for London’s future and the future of conservatism.

“HQS Wellington is a former WW2 Royal Navy Ship which is moored on the Victoria Embankment, right opposite Temple Tube and now is the floating livery hall of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners.

“Zac Goldsmith is the Member of Parliament for Richmond Park.He is currently seeking the Conservative Party nomination to run to succeed Boris Johnson as the next Mayor of London.

“Zac will give the keynote speech and will take questions from the floor.”

Update: Zac Goldsmith told PinkNews: “I absolutely disassociate myself with these ugly views and much else that the group stands for. But it has to be said that I speak to many organisations I don’t subscribe to and I never shy away from challenging them.

“On a separate note, this event was intended to be one of many where I could informally speak to Conservative Members about their and my priorities for London.

“Unfortunately the Bow group has been selling the event as a keynote speech from me, which is not something I had ever agreed to do. I will therefore not be taking part.”