BBC News carried a story on November 13 – first reported in the Salisbury Journal on November 12 – about Mary Douglas, a Conservative member of Wiltshire County Council.
Councillor Douglas held the portfolio for social mobility and skills. On Monday November 4, the Salisbury Area Board considered funding requests from community groups from the council.
One of the groups were the organisers of Salisbury Pride, represented by Salisbury deputy mayor and Pride organiser Caroline Corbin, who asked the council to contribute £1,000 towards their budget of £18,000 for their event in June 2020.
In the discussion, Councillor Douglas is reported to have said: ‘I cannot support this. I am not saying I do not accept or respect or love people who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning) because I do. I support completely their right to make choices, however I do not support those choices themselves, nor the ideology and world view they represent.
‘These are wonderful people, well-meaning and sincere, but misguided by a powerful ideology. I do not want to be a part of promoting this, and I want to be clear this is not just my view, I represent a large number of people, some who are afraid to say something.’
The Tory leader of the council, Philip Whitehead said: ‘I have taken the decision to remove Councillor Mary Douglas as Portfolio Holder for Social Mobility and Skills. I would like to thank her for her work during her time as Portfolio Holder. She will step down from the role with immediate effect, but remains a Wiltshire Council councillor.’
Councillor Corbin described Councillor Douglas as ‘an embarrassment to the public office who is just not fit for that role any more’.
This latest incident is a further challenge to liberal democracy, which is founded on the principle, among others, that the free expression of political ideas, as distinct from slavish bondage to an imposed party line, is the most conducive to political freedom and establishment of truth.
Our British constitution allows for principled opposition at the highest level of governance in our Houses of Parliament in order that the actions of the government in power can be subject to scrutiny and tested in debate.
Ed Costelloe, chairman of Grassroots Conservatives, said: ‘I wonder whether Philip Whitehead has any idea of what the vast majority of Conservative Party members will think of his decision which is contrary to conservative principles, free speech and a tolerant society.’
The long march through our institutions of an ideology from any source, be it unrestrained free-market capitalism, or any other, that brooks no debate or challenge from elected representatives of the people is a very worrying development.
Mrs Douglas is a vocal supporter of human rights. She is on record as saying: ‘As sons of God, we have unconditional value to the creator God who is our father. This is the highest account of a human being and the strongest foundation for human rights’. See here five minutes in.
Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, responded to the news by saying: ‘Councillor Douglas has served her community faithfully for many years. She is the latest in a long line of victims who are cast out from public life for daring to air another view.
‘Councillor Douglas is kind and sacrificial and cares deeply about the gay community. She is strong enough not to be taken in by their radical agenda and what it brings. For that she is punished. Britain 2019.’
The Reverend Lynda Rose, of Voice for Justice UK, said: ‘The medical risks and harm attaching to LGBT+ behaviours and sexual promiscuity are well documented.
‘So Councillor Douglas is surely justified in her comment that she accepts and respects people who identify as LGBTQ+, but does not support their behavioural choices. The proper question is: “Should public funds be used to celebrate high-risk behaviours known to cause harm?”’
Those who favoured the sacking of Mrs Douglas should note Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote: ‘Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.’ And Mrs Douglas may take comfort from George Orwell’s observation: ‘The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.’