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Tories launch investigation in Newport over claims members called Lib Dems a 'party of gay men’

By Rhiannon James & Ryan O'Neill

The Conservative Party in Newport has launched an internal allegation after a Liberal Democrat claimed that some Tory activists told members of the Islamic community not to vote for the Liberal Democrats because they were “a party of gay men”.

Oliver Townsend, chair of the Liberal Democrats in Newport, alleged the comments were made to a Liberal Democrat party member while canvassing during the recent local election.

In the letter to Welsh Conservatives leader Andrew RT Davies and the Newport branch posted on Twitter at the weekend, Mr Townsend claimed Tory members told Bangladeshi and Pakistani voters on the doors that the Lib Dems were "a party of gay men, and that Muslims should not be voting for us."

The Tories said the party would hold an internal investigation into the matter. Deputy chair (political) of Newport East Conservatives Ray Mogford said he had been in touch with Mr Townsend to personally reassure him and that the party was "fully supportive of the LGBT+ community." He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the party was "currently waiting on more substantial evidence" from the Lib Dems and that "if there’s a problem, it will be with one or two individuals."

Read more: Newport local elections 2022: The full result as Tories lose seats, Labour gains and voters stay home

Mr Townsend, who who is openly gay and married, said he had not become aware of the claims until after the local election, which saw the Conservatives lose almost half their seats in Newport. Read the full story on the local elections in Wales here.

In his letter he continued: "I have just spent the morning feeling as if I am back at secondary school again, feeling ashamed, feeling like I am something to be hidden away, and with guilt that my leadership of the local party has been used to undermine candidates that I have worked hard for."

Mr Townsend published his letter on Twitter following last week's election (Oliver Townsend)
(Oliver Townsend)

He said it had made him doubt whether he could continue in politics and was "genuinely imploring [the Conservatives] to take serious action on this issue."

Speaking to WalesOnline, Mr Townsend added: "It is the responsibility of our political representatives to make sure people feel welcome in this country. And that is what I would like to see from the Conservative Party."

Speaking to WalesOnline, deputy chair (political) of Newport East Conservatives Ray Mogford said: "We are in the process of investigating this report from the Liberal Democrats very seriously and rigorously and we want to reassure people that we are fully supportive of the LGBT+ community. We have demonstrated this by fielding candidates over the years."

He added that he had been contact with Mr Townsend directly over the matter. Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mr Mogford added: "We signed up to the fair election pledge and as far as we know we have acted respectfully during the campaign. We’re currently waiting on more substantial evidence from the Lib Dems and we hope to conclude the investigation as soon as possible.

"We have a totally inclusive organisation and the evidence for that is there. If there’s a problem, it will be with one or two individuals.”

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Dive Deeper:
Labour bids to run Stockport council for another year - despite having fewer councillors than Lib Dems
Councillor Elise Wilson, Labour and town hall leader since 2018, has confirmed she will again stand for the top job…
Edinburgh Election 2022: The winners and losers of this year's council vote
There were a number of closely-fought contests in this year's Edinburgh Council election but ultimately the nine seats lost by…
Edinburgh Council negotiations continue as parties call for Labour clarity
One week on from the election, parties have called on Labour to clarify if they're ruling out a new deal…
West Lothian's first Liberal Democrat councillor ready to get to work
Linlithgow rejected the Conservatives for the first time in 30 years to throw support behind local bookstore owner
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
New West Lothian Lib Dem councillor pledges to fight for residents
First LibDem councillor lays out her plans to help constituents
The tight calls and recounts which decided who was elected as a councillor in Swansea
As expected, the council election was a close-run thing in a handful of battlegrounds
Get all your news in one place