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Homophobic slur from Tory ‘despicable’ says Gedling Labour candidate

Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Gedling says a “despicable” homophobic slur posted about him on Facebook by a Conservative Party member and former local election candidate was “utterly unacceptable”.

Michael Payne, who is also Deputy Leader of Gedling Borough Council, said a resident first alerted him to the slur by Keith Seaton.

It was posted on a community group on Facebook on January 9.

Mr Seaton, whose Facebook bio says he is deputy chair for the Gedling Conservatives, wrote the comment as part of an exchange about local politics.

Mr Payne will stand for Labour in Gedling at the next General Election, due to be held later this year. The seat is currently held by Conservative Tom Randall.

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In responding to another person’s comment supporting Cllr Payne’s bid to win the seat, Mr Seaton commented: “you prefer ****y boys”.

Mr Seaton was suspended from the Conservative Party shortly afterwards and has since apologised.

Mr Seaton also stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative Party candidate in the May 2023 Gedling Borough Council local election.

Cllr Payne said: “It’s an utterly outdated and unacceptable view, particularly for someone who stood to represent the Conservatives a matter of months ago.

“When you’re in elected office you are there to represent everyone. Those despicable views show he wasn’t fit for elected office.

“I’ve never come across this before. It shows him for the kind of person he is and I’m sorry he holds those unacceptable views.

“This wasn’t a slip of the tongue. This was an open outright personal attack on social media from someone in a senior position.

“There is no place for attacking someone for who they’re married to.

“My message is: challenge me on my politics but don’t attack me for my personal life.

“We shouldn’t be here to attack someone for who they love.”

He said it was “good news” that Mr Seaton had been suspended quickly, but questioned whether he will be permanently expelled from the party.

Cllr Payne added: “I am proud to call Gedling my home and I am proud it is a diverse community.

“This makes me even more determined to represent everybody in Gedling, whatever their background.

“I’m used to the rough and tumble of politics I’m not afraid of having debate, but I absolutely attacking someone personally is completely off bounds.

“Of course, it has been nice for people to reach out and what’s been most powerful is to hear from residents, even those who support different parties than my own. Quite a few of them were disgusted by it.”

In a tweet to Cllr Payne, Gedling Conservatives said: “This is unacceptable and we are sorry that you – and others – have had to read this.

“The member involved in this has been suspended from the Party and the matter is being investigated by central office. Our Party stands against all forms of discrimination and is open to all.”

The Conservative Party Code of Conduct states that party members “must not discriminate against, bully, harass or victimise any other person because of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation”.

Mr Seaton told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Online debates always get heated but I regret the language I used and have since edited my comment.

“It was not directed at any individual or group I apologise for the offence caused.”

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