Conservative MP Andrew Turner has announced he will not be standing at the General Election after he was reported to have told a group of A-Level students that homosexuality was ‘wrong’ and ‘dangerous to society’.
The 63-year-old is said to have made his comments while visiting politics students at the Christ the King College in Newport, Isle of Wight.
Mr Turner is quitting having represented the island for 16 years.
Dave Stewart, the Conservative leader of the Isle of Wight Council, said: ‘I could not condone in any way the comments by Andrew Turner and I feel he is right to stand down.
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‘Island Conservatives are fielding several candidates in next week’s council elections who are gay, and this is most certainly not an opinion that either myself or anyone else in the team of Conservative council candidates would ever support.
‘It is very disappointing to hear such comments from someone I know and it is a shame for him to end to his career in this way, but what he said was unacceptable.
‘Moving forward, I can assure people on the Isle of Wight that Island Conservatives, led by me, are against this sort of intolerance.’
Student Esther Poucher, an LGBT campaigner, posted on Facebook that she had been ‘truly shocked’ when he said he would not be attending an Isle of Wight Pride event.
She wrote: ‘He told us that he’d been invited, but wasn’t intending to go. This is because (and this is a direct quote) he thinks that homosexuality is ‘wrong’ and ‘dangerous to society’.
‘At this answer, I had to leave. It’s terrifying that in this age and point in our development as a society, there are still people that can’t care enough about a person’s wellbeing to just accept who they are.’
She added: ‘Yes, we all believe different things, and that’s wonderful. But when that belief treats a group as sub-human, and attempts to take away their fundamental rights, we can’t respect it.’
Mr Turner said in a statement released to the Press Association: ‘It has been my privilege to serve the people of the Isle of Wight as their Member of Parliament.
‘I have been incredibly fortunate to represent such a beautiful constituency. After 16 years I have come to the decision that it is time for a new generation to take up the mantle of representing my fantastic constituents.
‘I am grateful for the support I have received from islanders and proud of the record that Conservatives have in delivering for the island.
‘In the forthcoming election I will be supporting the Conservative candidate to ensure the strong and stable leadership of Theresa May is returned to Downing Street.’
Isle of Wight Pride said in a statement posted on Twitter: ‘Any person who makes such a statement in a public forum as our MP is dangerous.
‘Suicide rates amongst LGBT young people are still disproportionately high. Mr Turner did not know if anyone in the room was struggling with their sexuality or gender identity and he does not know how his comments may have impacted on those present.’
Labour shadow minister and elections chairman Andrew Gwynne had called for Mr Turner to be suspended as a Tory candidate and said: ‘These allegations are deeply worrying.
‘There is no place for bigotry and hatred like this in modern society, and no one holding these views is fit for public office.
‘I look forward to Theresa May doing the right thing and speaking out against these homophobic allegations and show that she is now serious about LGBT equality.’
Another student who witnessed Mr Turner’s comments, Toby Sheard, 17, said: ‘At the time I was completely shocked, he was a person who was supposed to represent us, who is supposed to be our voice and defend our views and he was saying that people who have elected him are a danger to society.
‘It took a while to process it, that people who are in Parliament in our governing party can still have these views which I thought had died out in the 20th century.
‘I think it is the right thing for him not to stand again because as much as people say it is his opinion he still would be our elected representative if he won.’
Vix Lowthion, Green Party candidate for the Isle of Wight, said: ‘Andrew Turner was unfit to represent the Isle of Wight and his recent, abhorrent comments left his place in Parliament completely untenable.
‘People here deserve someone who will stand up for them. Today the Green Party announced radical plans to protect LGBTIQA+ refugees, provide decent HIV protection and promote rights for intersex and trans people - that is the kind of politics people in the Isle of Wight need and only the Green Party can offer.’