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Lib Dem chairman resigns over prostitution comments

Photo: MyCouncillor.org.uk

Cheltenham's Liberal Democrat chairman Dennis Parsons has resigned after making comments appearing to suggest school careers advisors should consider prostitution as a line of work to pupils.

Dennis Parsons, a long standing Liberal Democrat Councillor for Pittville ward, made the comment at the party conference in Brighton.

It's prompted widespread outrage on social media from fellow councillors, party members and MPs.

In response, former MP for Cheltenham Martin Horwood released a statement saying he has 'asked Mr Parsons to resign'.

I have this morning asked Dennis Parsons to resign as Chair of Cheltenham Liberal Democrats.

This follow rhetorical questions he asked at a consultative policy session on sex work at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton yesterday which are being widely misinterpreted as advocating school careers advice on sex work being given to school leavers.

– Martin Horwood

Councillor Parsons released the following statement.

It is absolutely not my view that careers officers should recommend prostitution as a career.

I was at a consultative session on sex work at the Liberal Democrat conference where we were discussing, among other things, how to remove the stigma that attaches to this type of work. These sex workers can be abused and the law often has unintended consequences that can make them more vulnerable.

In my view, we are conditioned as a society to see sex work as unsavoury. I tried to demonstrate this by comparing attitudes to sex work with attitudes to accountancy. And I asked whether schools careers officers should recommend sex work to school leavers. I did not put that forward as a serious suggestion. It was meant as a rhetorical question as everyone - including myself - would consider it unthinkable. No-one in the room took it as anything other than that.

However, I do accept that my remarks were capable of misinterpretation and as Chair of the Cheltenham Liberal Democrats, the repercussions are such that I felt that I had no option but to resign that post with immediate effect.

I apologise unreservedly to anyone who has been offended by these events. This was not my intention and the coverage does not reflect my views. I am happy to meet with any groups or individuals who wish to understand my position on this important subject.

– Councillor Parsons