An Ulster Unionist barred from standing in the Westminster election because of his views on gay couples staying in his guest house has blasted the Conservative Party’s “hypocrisy” and “double standards”after a senior Tory was secretly taped saying people should have the right to turn away homosexual guests.
Antrim Mayor Adrian Watson, who had been hoping to run in the South Antrim constituency on a joint Ulster Unionist/Conservative Party ticket, called on shadow of secretary of state Owen Paterson to explain his party’s position after it emerged a leading Tory said bed and breakfast owners should “have the right” to turn away homosexual couples
Mr Watson had won the backing of 90 per cent of South Antrim UUP members. He was due to face a joint committee of Ulster Unionists and Conservatives when, he claimed, the process was halted by Tory objections. Mr Watson believed the objection was linked to comments he made in 2006 saying that he felt “uncomfortable” having gay guests in his B&B that was also his family home. Mr Watson accused the Tories of having “double standards” when it was reported yesterday that shadow home secretary Chris Grayling had been secretly taped suggesting that people who ran bed and breakfast’s in their homes should “have the right” to turn away homosexual couples.
Under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 no-one should be refused goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality.
The Epsom and Ewell MP later defended the comments saying he was looking at being “sensitive to the genuinely held principles of faith groups” but was not seeking a change in the law.
But Mr Watson said he was “furious” when he read the headlines yesterday morning and accused Mr Grayling of “going much further” than he did.
“I would never dream of going as far, I think it is absolutely horrendous,” he said. “I stood by my wife and her position because it was in our family home, she has strong family and Christian values, it was just so awkward, trying to explain to young chidren what being gay is.”
Mr Watson said he has since extended his guesthouse beyond his family home.
He claimed local Tories “demonised” him over his comments and revealed he only discovered of their objections through the Belfast Telegraph.
“What I have witnessed over the last six weeks is a vendetta waged against me for a statement I made three years ago,” he said.
“My wife and I have been dragged through the Press and received hate mail and phone calls to the house from people accusing us of being homophobic
“I am not homophobic. I have friends who are gay and I have always been sensitive to that.”
He has now accused the party of having “double standards” and called on shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson to “explain himself”.
“Are they going to veto their shadow home secretary now? Is Owen Paterson going to go back to London and say we have set a precedent in Northern Ireland?” he said. “If there is no disciplinary action against him then it is serious discrimination, David Cameron talks about equality, where is my equality?
“The Conservatives have shown themselves to be anti-Christian, anti-working class and anti-Orange.”
A spokesman for Conservative Campaign Headquarters in London said the decision on Mr Watson was taken unanimously by the Joint Committee of Ulster Unionists and Conservatives.
He added it was taken for a “whole range of reasons”.
Mr Watson said he plans to run as an independent unionist if anyone other than Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey runs for the party in the election which is expected to take place on May 6.