Anger at Labour leader’s ‘donkey botherers’ jibe

Councillor Simon Blackburn
Councillor Simon Blackburn
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FURY has erupted after Blackpool’s Labour leader branded the town’s Premier League heroes “donkey botherers”.

Coun Simon Blackburn, who is aiming to become council leader in May’s local elections, made the comment about the Seasiders on social networking site Facebook during Saturday’s derby clash between Blackpool FC and Blackburn Rovers.

Seething fans took to online discussion forums demanding Coun Blackburn - a life-long Rovers fan - resign.

The councillor’s comment, which was made via his mobile phone minutes after skipper Charlie Adam had put the Seasiders 2-0 up in the crucial match, read: “Oh my actual God...the donkey-botherers are 2-0 up thanks to two of the worst refereeing decisions ever!”

Red-faced Coun Blackburn today apologised, claiming the posting was meant as a joke between football fans during the match.

And he said he was not considering resigning over the matter.

But Coun Peter Callow, leader of the Conservative-led council, echoed fans’ calls for him to step down.

He said: “What an unbelievably stupid, ridiculous, crass thing to say. He has committed political suicide, he has stabbed the people of Blackpool in the back, he needs to resign immediately.

“People know the connotations of what he said.

“He wanted us to lose, and for the town he wants to lead to stare relegation in the face.”

Fiona Martin, vice chairman of Blackpool FC Supporters Association, said: “It was a very naive thing to say, especially as he is standing for election.

“Blackpool’s promotion into the Premier League has brought a lot of joy, and business, to the town, the last thing it needs is relegation.

“The comment was probably funny to him, but fans are very angry and it could mean he is not successful in May.”

Coun Blackburn, (left), today said he meant no offence by the comment and had “great admiration for the achievements of Blackpool FC”.

He has pledged to never use the phrase “donkey botherers” again and has taken steps to ensure his Facebook page can only be viewed by his ‘friends’ on the site.

Coun Blackburn said: “I apologise if people took offence to this – it was a joke between football fans and I never thought people would react like this.

“I am a life-long Blackburn Rovers fan. The majority of the Labour councillors were sitting on the opposite side of the ground from me and we were winding each other up.

“I have great admiration for the achievements of Blackpool FC, and all their fans.

“And I hope Saturday’s game will be the among the first of many derby games we enjoy together in the Premier League.

“Blackpool FC’s success, as well as being a great source of local pride, is a key economic driver, and I am sure that the point they took at Blackburn will contribute to their continued, and much deserved, Premier League survival.

“Apologies to anyone offended by my remarks, which were only ever intended to be private and tongue-in-cheek – but I am sorry nonetheless.

“As my fellow football fans I hope will understand, we can all get a wee bit carried away in the heat of the moment - but I can understand why people feel that I should have chosen my words more carefully.”

Asked if he would resign over the comment, as many fans had called for, Coun Blackburn said: “I will not be resigning over this.”

Today, Coun Blackburn’s Facebook ‘status’ read: “Whoops. To my surprise (nay, shock) it appears that my Facebook page was visible to the WORLD yesterday, when I commented on the Blackburn vs Blackpool game. Apologies to anyone who was offended.”

But many outraged fans on internet message forums have called for his resignation.

Glassman said: “He was actually rooting for BFC to get beaten and face possible relegation. SACK HIM”, while Louise_a wrote: “It’s one thing being a Rovers supporter but its an own goal to describe the Pool as donkey-botherers.”

But Garstangtaxiservice said: “Blackpool has bigger problems than if someone calls the team names on Facebook.

“My vote would go to the best candidate.”

Liberal Democrat Coun Robert Wynne added: “This was just a bit of fun at a football match, and knowing Simon as I do, it is his sense of humour.

“However, he will definitely learn from this – he knows he needs to eat fewer East Lancashire pies and change his accent before we truly accept him.

“Plus he should know his team are a sad collection of mercenaries compared with our brave boys.”