A COUNCILLOR is standing by his ‘ill-judged’ comments about the Westminster sexual harassment scandal after an MP raised concerns about what he said.
Gosport councillor Roger Allen is accused of trivialising the subject in a Facebook post in which he said accusations of sexual misconduct could ‘easily be manufactured or blown out of proportion by mischief makers’.
I do not believe the comments were ill-judged. I think they have been misinterpreted by someone who wanted to get upsetCouncillor Roger Allen
He was speaking out after the Harvey Weinstein allegations spread to the ongoing Westminster sleaze scandal.
Mr Allen’s post led to a complaint from a constituent to Caroline Dinenage, Gosport MP, asking for Cllr Allen to be suspended.
Ms Dinenage responded by condemning the comments ‘as ill-judged and liable to cause offence’ before contacting Gosport Borough Council and the town’s Conservative Association to address the matter.
George McAleese, the association’s chairman admitted that ‘in hindsight’ the comments were ‘ill-judged’.
But Cllr Allen has stood by his comments, stating they have been ‘misinterpreted’ by other people.
He told The News: ‘I do not believe the comments were ill-judged.
‘I think they have been misinterpreted by someone who wanted to get upset.
‘Do people not have a sense of humour?
‘My opinion is my opinion and I did not set out to upset anybody, that is not my style.
‘I feel sorry for the people offended. It seems the world has gone mad.’
In the original post, which was published on November 1, Cllr Allen – who is a Tory ward member for Hardway – said the following: ‘There is a lot of noise in the media regarding inappropriate behaviour and complaints dating back to days before my memory.
‘I am beginning to feel it is not really advisable to be in the same room with anyone of the opposite sex without a chaperon.
‘An accusation of sexual misconduct, whether true or not, does have an impact on reputation and can so easily be manufactured or blown out of all proportion by mischief makers.
‘The matter of determining truth is extremely difficult often amounting to one person’s word against another, but the damage is done.’
He added that life would get ‘boring’ if ‘flirting and normal banter’ became ‘such a delicate subject’.
The constituent, wrote to Ms Dinenage after spotting the post saying she was ‘totally disgusted’ at the behaviour.
She said the comments had really hurt her, stating she had had past experiences of people ‘with an attitude like Roger Allen’.
In her response, Ms Dinenage said: ‘I fully recognise that Cllr Allen’s comments are ill-judged and liable to cause offence.
‘Everyone has a right to be treated with respect and accusations such as those we’ve heard of lately must be taken seriously.
‘As you say, for women who have themselves been subject to harassment and abuse, hearing the matter trivialised is profoundly distressing.
‘I can assure you that I take all such charges very seriously, as does the government and the Conservative party more broadly.’
Mr McAleese said that both he and Councillor Mark Hook, Tory leader of the borough council had spoken to Cllr Allen about the comments, emphasising that it was not a ‘telling off’. He said: ‘While I believe the comments were intended to be tongue-in-cheek – in hindsight, I believe that they were ill-judged.’