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Mocking the week? Tory in trouble over joke about gays and domestic violence

February 8, 2010 12:56 PM
By Heidi Blake in The Daily Telegraph
Cllr Karen Chilvers

Cllr Karen Chilvers has made a formal complaint

A Conservative councillor is under investigation for allegedly referring to homosexuals and victims of domestic violence as "the queen team" and the "scream team" at a public meeting.

Cllr Keith Parker provoked protests from fellow councillors when he apparently made the comment at a scrutiny board meeting held to discuss "equality and diversity".

But the 68-year-old has defended his remark and claimed it has made him "a gay celebrity".

In a filmed recording of the meeting at Brentwood council, Cllr Parker appears to contribute to a conversation about consultations with homosexuals and domestic violence victims by saying: "The scream team will be conversing with the queen team."

The remark drove Cllr Karen Chilvers, a Liberal Democrat, to make a formal complaint about Cllr Parker, who may now be called before the council standards committee.

Cllr Parker, who has served as a Conservative councillor for four years, originally defended the comment by saying it was the sort of "joke" often heard on television comedy shows such as Mock the Week.

But he has since claimed that the remark was misheard, and that he in fact said "the stream team will be conversing with the queen team". By "stream team" he says he meant a group of councillors working to bring minority groups together within the local authority.

The 68-year-old, who admitted referring to homosexuals as "queens", also claimed to have received letters of support from the gay community.

"I seem to have become quite a gay celebrity at the moment and I've had lots of emails from the gay fraternity as far away as Cheshire and Derby," he said.

Cllr Parker also claimed to have had emails congratulating him on "being so clever".

Cllr Chilvers, 38, denied that Cllr Parker's comments could have been misheard. "I've listened back to it on the webcam several times and I'm pretty convinced of what I heard," she said.

The Liberal Democrat councillor of three years said she had taken particular offence at Cllr Parker's remark because she has worked with victims of domestic violence in the past. "My view is we're elected to represent all people and we shouldn't be ridiculing them," she said.

"I do not think that is the correct way to conduct oneself as an elected representative. This isn't Mock the Week, it's a council chamber and we're representing the people of Brentwood."

Cllr Chilvers said her complaint had been acknowledged and she expected it to be taken up by the council standards committee.

A spokesman for Stonewall, the homosexual rights group, said:"All elected representatives are meant to serve and reflect the community as a whole including gay constituents."

The council code of conduct states that council members "should have respect for others and promote equality by not discriminating against unlawfully against any person and by treating people with respect regardless of race, age, religion, gender or sexual orientation."