Labour MP reported to chief whip for backing LGBT teaching protesters

A Labour MP has been reported to the chief whip for telling campaigners protesting against LGBT teaching at a Birmingham primary school “you’re right”.

Roger Godsiff, MP for the city’s Hall Green constituency which is home to Anderton Park Primary School, also told protesters they had a “just cause”, as he criticised the headteacher.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said she has reported the “discriminatory and irresponsible” comments to chief whip Nick Brown.

The LGBT Labour group called for veteran MP Mr Godsiff to lose the Labour whip.

Weeks of megaphone-led protests at the Birmingham school saw the council successfully apply for a High Court interim injunction, which banned demos outside the gates for the first time on Friday.

Demonstrators object to the school’s use of particular relationship education materials, claiming the teaching is “over-emphasising a gay ethos”.

Protesters have repeatedly referenced the use of two books; one about two male penguins who raise an egg, and another about a boy who wears a dress.

Roger Godsiff
Roger Godsiff

The school’s headteacher Sarah Hewitt-Clarkson has called the demonstrations “toxic and nasty”, and said she has received threats since they started.

The police were also called in three weeks ago, after counter-demonstrators were egged.

Mr Godsiff first waded into the row last month, saying he understood some parents’ concerns about how “age-appropriate” elements of the LGBT teaching had been for children aged four and five.

Ms Hewitt-Clarkson responded by saying the Equality Act was a “mark in the sand” and all public servants including Mr Godsiff have a responsibility to “promote, understand and aspire” to it.

In his latest comments, appearing in a video widely circulated on social media, Mr Godsiff said: “I believe in telling it as I see it.”

Flanked by the main organiser of the protests, Shakeel Afsar, the MP then said: “If I had the opportunity of rolling the clock back I would do exactly the same thing again.

“Because I think you have a just cause and I regret the fact that it hasn’t been reciprocated by the headteacher.”

LGBT education protests
LGBT education protests

Mr Godsiff then asked demonstrators to “consider calling the protest off” as he said they have made their point, but he added it would be their choice whether to do so.

He then said: “I will continue to try and fight your corner because you’re right.

“Nothing more, nothing less. You’re right.

“I will continue to try and work to bring a resolution to this dispute but also to ensure that the school teaches the Equality Act in the same way it is being taught at all the other primary schools – where there isn’t a row.”

Ms Rayner, who was in Birmingham on Saturday with party leader Jeremy Corbyn, said: “I’ve reported this to our chief whip.

“This might be the personal views of Mr Roger Godsiff but they do not represent the Labour Party and are discriminatory and irresponsible.”

Meanwhile Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, said he would be tabling a formal complaint to the party about Mr Godsiff.

In a series of tweets, he said: “This made me feel sick to my stomach.

“One of my own Labour colleagues stood with people who have peddled hatred and bigotry on school gates, intimidating pupils, teachers and parents.

“If he was a Tory MP, we’d be all over it.

“There must be no place for hatred and apologists for hatred in the Labour Party.”

At its annual general meeting, the LGBT Labour group voted to condemn Mr Godsiff’s remarks and called for the Labour whip to be removed.

“No Labour MP should be pandering to the bigotry we have seen outside the school gates in Birmingham,” the group said on Twitter.

Today our members voted unanimously to condemn, unreservedly and unequivocally, Roger Godsiff MP actions and calls for the Labour whip to be removed.

No Labour MP should be pandering to the bigotry we have seen outside the school gates in Birmingham.

— LGBT+ Labour (@LGBTLabour) June 8, 2019

Leading Labour councillors from Birmingham City Council also rounded on Mr Godsiff.

Deputy council leader Brigid Jones tweeted: “How dare you tell men whose homophobic protests were so threatening and disruptive that they had a court injunction issued against them that they are ‘right’.

“You do not speak for me.”

A petition calling on the constituency Labour Party to deselect Mr Godsiff following his latest comments has gained 1,000 signatures.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has previously called for the “unacceptable” demonstrations to end.