Blackpool South election candidates clash over 'homophobia'

Two parliamentary candidates for the Blackpool South seat have clashed over an organisation accused of being homophobic.

Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 5:04 pm
David Brown, the Brexit candidate for Blackpool South

Brexit representative David Brown raised concerns that Conservative rival Scott Benton had connections with pro-life group the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).

Mr Brown said statements made on the group’s website dismissed same sex marriage as being of no “benefit”, stated that gay people were more promiscuous and more prone to mental illness, views he personally found homophobic as a gay man.

On Mr Benton’s Calderdale Council page, connected to his role as a Conservative councillor for Brighouse in West Yorkshire, it stated until Monday this week, that he was a member of the group.

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Scott Benton, the Conservatives' Blackpool South candidate

Mr Benton says he is no longer connected to SPUC and he has now updated his page to remove the reference.

And he hit back, stating that while he still endorsed the group’s pro-life stance, he was not homophobic and was in fact in favour of same sex marriage, while some members of the Brexit Party clearly weren’t.

Mr Brown, a former hotelier in Blackpool who now runs an online business, said: “I am concerned about it not because I am a candidate in the election but because there is a chance this man could become my MP.

“I am not going to disappear back to my home town after this election campaign, I actually live here.

“I moved to Blackpool more than 20 years ago because this town has always had a reputation for being more tolerant to members of the gay community and I would hate that to change

“Blackpool South has a large and diverse community that proudly embraces its LGBT members, I know this as I am a member of this community.

“It is very worrying that Scott Benton has links to an organisation which has made these statements.

“Either the party has made a serious mistake in choosing him as a candidate or it has done so because it agrees with those views.”

Mr Benton said: “I am pro-life and make no apology for that, but if there are some other views the Society might endorse, they are not views I share.

“Some members of the Labour Party have been accused of being anti-Semitic - should all Labour candidates be accused of that?

“I am not homophobic and I am passionately in favour of same-sex marriage. I was a member of the SPUC because I am pro-life but am no longer involved.”

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children says it is the largest and oldest pro-life group in the UK and its key aims are to protect unborn children from abortion and challenge euthanasia.

There is no stated aim to oppose same-sex marriage on its home page, although its extensive website still carries some pages which include controversial statements.

One of these, dated from 2012 but still accessible on the data base, states: “There is no reason why the State should endorse and promote homosexual partnerships.

“There is no evidence that such partnerships are of benefit to those involved.”

A SPUC spokesman stated this year that it was not homophobic but had simply stated that same sex marriage was not the direct equivalent of heterosexual marriage and should not be treated as such.

The Blackpool South seat, which was previous retained by Labour’s current candidate, Gordon Marsden, is also being contested by Gary Coleman (Independent); Becky Daniels (Green Party) and Bill Greene (Lib Dem)