Two Oxford councillors have come under heavy fire this week for comments insulting the LGBTQ community and the homeless.
John Tanner, Labour Councillor for Littlemore, branded Oxford’s homeless “a disgrace”, while Julia Gasper, a parish councillor currently affiliated with the English Democrats and previously UKIP, posted a picture of Jimmy Savile to commemorate LGBTQ History Month.
Tanner told BBC Oxford that those who sleep rough are “a real blight” on the city and some were not really homeless.
Mr Tanner said: “It’s a real blight on Oxford, we are an international city, people come from all over the world and they don’t want to see rough sleepers all over the place. I would like to go up to some of these rough sleepers and say ‘you are a disgrace’.”
He added: “The biggest culprit is the government, which is cutting benefits to so many people that a lot of people are faced with no choice.”
He faces a decision over whether he will be referred to the local government standards board.
Tanner told BBC Oxford that those who sleep rough are “a real blight” on the city.
An apology has since been made by Mr Tanner who admitted his comments were “very unwise”. He apologised “unreservedly”.
Mr Tanner continued: “I was quite wrong to imply that it was in any way the fault of the beggars.”
The Oxford East Conservative Association have issued a formal complaint to the council about Tanner’s comments. The Deputy Chairman of the Association, Councillor Alex Curtis, said that his words “betray an appalling lack of compassion and concern for vulnerable residents the Council are supposed to be protecting.”
The Green Party branded his comments “disgraceful” and suggested he had breached the councillors’ code of conduct. They said that although he had apologised they would still be taking advice on whether he had breached Council requirements which ask that members be respectful and do not bully either groups or individuals through the media.
Housing spokesman for The Green Party, David Thomas, said: “This was no slip of the tongue but a direct and deliberate attack on one of the most vulnerable groups in Oxford from a senior city and county Labour councillor.”
On 12th February parish councillor and Oxfordshire’s chairwoman of the English Democrats, Julia Gasper, posted a photo on ‘Newsflash from UK’, her personal blog, of Jimmy Saville with the former Mayor of Scarborough, Peter Jaconelli. She captioned it “what could be more suitable for annual LGBTQ History Month than this heart-warming picture of two of Britain’s most inveterate paedophiles hand in hand.”
Gasper captioned [the photo] “what could be more suitable for annual LGBTQ History Month than this heart-warming picture of two of Britain’s most inveterate paedophiles hand in hand.”
She added that Jimmy Saville and Peter Jaconelli were in a “homosexual relationship” and that “Their bizarre relationship was known to police, although the records have only just been released.”
“Like so many other facts, it was thought best covered up and swept under the carpet.”
She said that there were victims of paedophilia molested by both Saville and Jaconelli “showing just how cosy this ‘gay marriage’ was.”
Gasper, who is an independent academic specialising in historical literature last year made controversial comments attacking the LGBTQ community. She had previously branded gay rights a “lunatic’s charter”. In 2013 such comments led her to resign as chairman of the Oxford branch of UKIP.
Shivaike Shah, one of the LGBTQ representatives at University College, Oxford University said: “Gasper’s actions are completely reprehensible and the LGBTQ+ community repudiates them entirely. We are a community founded on equality and such a comparison is outdated, bigoted and wholly unacceptable.”