Tory councillor King Lawal who said 'being gay was a sin' has whip suspended and is now subject of school probe into his behaviour amid resignation calls

Calls for Cllr King Lawal’s resignation have been made after he made controversial comments on Twitter
North Northamptonshire Councillor King Lawal has had the Tory whip suspendedNorth Northamptonshire Councillor King Lawal has had the Tory whip suspended
North Northamptonshire Councillor King Lawal has had the Tory whip suspended

A Conservative councillor who said that being gay was a sin – and then doubled-down on his comments when challenged – has lost the party whip.

Although the party have not confirmed the news publicly, this newspaper has learned that Cllr King Lawal (Con, Queensway and Brickhill) has been suspended by the Tories for 21 days subject to an investigation into his remarks on Twitter on Thursday (June 29).

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Cllr Lawal, who has since removed his councillor title from his Twitter bio, said that being gay was a sin and that those involved in Pride should ‘repent’. He later told our reporters that he stood by his comments and said they were informed by his Christian beliefs.

Yesterday (Friday) in another lengthy Twitter post he further clarified his comments by saying that they had been ‘misinterpreted as hateful’ and that he wanted to to see gay people saved from the punishment that sin brings with it.

He added: “I do not come against pride to attack who they are, my intention was to say that I would not celebrate this any more than I would celebrate a month of gossip or anything else the bible calls sin.”

But last night pressure was mounting on Cllr Lawal to resign. Weavers Academy, where he sits on the Academy Council as the North Northamptonshire Council representative, said they were suspending him with immediate effect pending an investigation by the school.

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A letter to parents read: “We are an inclusive community and we work hard to foster a positive culture which supports, welcomes and values diversity. We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind and always promote a culture of respect, tolerance and understanding.”

The charity Groundwork also asked him to resign from his position on their board. In a statement to local news outlet NN Journal, Executive Director Kate Williams said: “Given recent social media activity our board of trustees asked Cllr King Lawal to resign with immediate effect from the Groundwork Northamptonshire Board of Trustees yesterday.

“The core principles of the Groundwork movement and Groundwork Northamptonshire are rooted in equality and celebration of diversity. Our funders, communities, service users and staff rely on us to uphold that principle and it is for that reason we took swift action”.

Opposition councillors also called for Cllr Lawal’s resignation.

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In a statement to this newspaper from Corby Town Council’s Labour Group, which held the town’s first ever Pride even last month, chair of the organising committee Cllr Callum Reilly said: “It has been deeply concerning to read the saddening and oppressive comments shared on social media by Cllr Lawal.

"As an elected member of his local community, there to represent the views of all constituents, these actions highlight significant disrespect and disregard to an equal society and the right for people to be their true selves.

"Corby's Pride event this June was a hive of inclusivity and one example of an event making history which highlighted the togetherness of our communities and the importance of not allowing discriminatory attitudes such as the comments by Cllr Lawal to win.

“Corby Town Council stand together with the constituents of Brickhill and Queensway and call upon the NNC executive to swiftly take the ethically and morally correct actions to ensure that such behaviour is condoned at all costs.

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Deputy leader Cllr Martyn Reuby and leader Cllr Mark Pengelly called on Cllr Lawal to resign. Cllr Pengelly said: “I agree 100 per cent with Cllr Reilly's comments.

"Cllr Lawal makes decisions that affect the great people of Corby, but it is clear that he thinks many of his constituents are sinners. How can they ask for his help and support? With the tweets still being in place the Labour group believe Cllr Lawal should stand down from his position of councillor and we ask his political group on NNC to support us on asking for this to happen.”

Wellingborough Labour Party have also this morning (Saturday) issued a statement expressing solidarity with the LGBTQ community. They said: “Pride month celebrates positively changing attitudes in society towards LGBTQ+ people and their achievements in securing legal protections, equal rights and freedom to be themselves without discrimination.

“Those freedoms and rights were won the hard way.

“Cllr Lawal’s follow-up statement seeking to justify the offence caused, making no effort to understand the upset and anger of residents affected, is simply not good enough.

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“We are thankful that NNC and other bodies have acted swiftly to address the community’s complaints.”

Leader of NNC Cllr Jason Smithers (Con, Oundle) also made a further statement on Twitter last night, although he once again stopped short of condemning Cllr Lawal’s comments.

Cllr Smithers, appearing to take credit for organising Corby Pride which NNC were not involved in, said: “Whilst the councillor has posted his personal views, these were not made on behalf of the council or the North Northamptonshire Conservative Group. We want to reassure you that North Northamptonshire Conservatives and the council is an inclusive group and authority.

“As a council and a group we are proud to be supporters of Pride month, and we were delighted to see our first ever Pride event held in Corby recently.

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“Our support has also been shown through a visual presence on our website, social media posts, and the raising of the Pride flag at our town buildings.

“We continue to be committed to reducing inequality within our communities and creating a fair and inclusive environment for all. We fully support our LGBTQ+ community.”

He was asked several times on Twitter whether Cllr Lawal had had the whip removed, but did not answer.

A statement from Unison said: “Councillor King Lawal has publicly made derogatory remarks against lesbian and gay people, including ‘being gay is a sin’ amongst other things.

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“Unison North Northants Local Government Branch strongly condemn the councillors statement as completely unacceptable and stand in solidarity with the LGBT+ community many of whom are our members.

“This kind of rhetoric from politicians is extremely harmful, and can generate hate towards the LGBT+ community. It can affect the self-esteem and confidence of LGBT+ people, and can negatively impact on their mental health.”

Earlier this year, Cllr Lawal was also elected to Rushden Town Council. They are yet to comment.