Racial slur councillor suspended from Cheltenham Lib Dems

racial slur councillor suspended from cheltenham lib dems - Racial slur councillor suspended from Cheltenham Lib Dems
Image caption Dennis Parsons apologised for using the word but said he used his family’s cat’s name to show “how different the culture was” in the 1950s

A councillor who repeatedly used “incredibly offensive racial slurs” at a council meeting has been suspended from the local Liberal Democrat party.

Dennis Parsons said the offensive word – the name of his family’s black cat in the 1950s – four times at Monday’s Cheltenham Borough council meeting.

He apologised for using the word but said he used the cat’s name to show “how different the culture was then”.

Local party members voted to suspend his group membership on Wednesday.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service said the comments were made during a debate to review the authority’s policies in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month.

During the meeting, Mr Parsons described his family’s cat saying his mother would shout its name from the front gate.

He added that “now obviously you can’t do that” because “the culture has changed”.

Lib Dem councillor Karl Hobley said he was “staggered” Mr Parsons “chose to speak those words”.

While Lib Dem councillor Max Wilkinson said he knew Mr Parsons “wouldn’t have meant offence” but it was “truly offensive”.

In response, Mr Parsons said he was “obviously sorry” if he had “offended people’s sensitivities” but he had “quoted something that was perfectly acceptable in 1945”.

Following the meeting, calls were made for him to resign from the local group while an online petition calling for his resignation from the council, has attracted more than 200 signatories.

Rebecca Mountford said on the petition: “I can’t believe he hasn’t gone yet. Zero tolerance on racism is the only we’re going to eradicate it altogether.”

And Shola Efunshile, said: “Our elected representatives cannot be allowed to behave in this way, especially at a time when our collective society is working to do better.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Parsons said he “very much” regrets and is “hugely embarrassed” by his action.

“My parents were not racist. I am not racist. I was using the name of the family cat to illustrate how different the culture was then,” he said.

“Unfortunately, in doing so, I articulated the N-word – which was unacceptable.”

Mr Wilkinson, chairman of the standards committee, said it would “treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves”.

He also confirmed that all borough councillors would receive training on issues of race, equality and diversity.

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