A senior Tory councillor was facing suspension today for saying the party "may as well legalise marriage with animals" after David Cameron backed gay weddings. Party chiefs were set to discipline James Malliff after he posted the comment on Twitter. Labour condemned the "sick" remark and demanded Mr Cameron sack him immediately.
Mr Malliff, who is cabinet member for the big society and localism on Tory-controlled Wycombe district council, has deleted the tweet but not before screen grabs were taken and shown to the Evening Standard. In a post directed at former Conservative MP Paul Goodman, who had asked whether legalising gay marriage could lead to multiple sharia marriages being made lawful, Mr Malliff wrote: "There is no doubt the PM is wrong on this issue. We may as well legalise marriage with animals, crude I concede but no apology."
Labour MP Clive Betts said: "This sick comment shows once again that the Tories are out of touch and out of date. It's clear that the Tories haven't changed. If James Malliff doesn't resign immediately as a cabinet member and a councillor, David Cameron must sack him." A Conservative party spokesman said action was being taken against Mr Malliff, adding: "This language is completely unacceptable."
Another tweet on his feed reads: "Great keynote address by David Cameron, not sure about legalising gay marriage though, what happened to sanctity of marriage #odd". Cllr Malliff apologised and said he had not intended to cause offence. "I respect the rights of people to hold different views to my own. It was not an anti-gay statement, more a comment about where we draw the line." He said he had apologised locally and felt that had "put it to bed".
UPDATE 13/10/11 at 10.20am:
Mr Malliff has now been suspended. Gay rights group Stonewall said: “We warmly welcome the decision of the Conservative Party to suspend Councillor Malliff. It’s extraordinary in 2011 that he is prepared to insult so many of his council taxpayers in this way.”