Candidate suspended by Stevenage Conservatives after once calling for ‘gays to face death penalty’

Matthew Clarke, a Stevenage Manor ward candidate in next months council elections, has been suspende

Matthew Clarke, a Stevenage Manor ward candidate in next months council elections, has been suspended by the Stevenage Conservative Association after it emerged he once called for gays to face the death penalty. - Credit: Archant

A candidate in next month’s Stevenage council elections has been suspended and his affiliation with the Conservatives withdrawn after it emerged he once called for “gays to face the death penalty”.

Matthew Clarke, a candidate in Manor ward, cited death as the “one penalty in the Bible for such deeds” in a now-deleted 2005 blog post about homosexuality, published under the name ‘Matthew Celestine’.

In a 2016 tweet Mr Clarke said he had never sent death threats to gay people, but admitted that “in the past I took the view that homosexuals should face the death penalty”.

Mr Clarke deleted his blog and social media accounts after his 2005 and 2016 comments were highlighted over Twitter last week by Jo Phillips, a Glasgow-based Labour activist.

He was set to contest the Stevenage Borough Council seat for the Tories but, in a statement sent to the Comet, the Stevenage Conservative Association chairman Alexander Clarkson said he had been suspended and as such was no longer a candidate for the party.

Mr Clarkson added that an investigation is under way and that as the ‘statement of persons nominated’ have now been published Mr Clarke’s name will still appear on the ballot paper – but if elected he would not join the Conservative group on the council.

In response, Mr Clarke – who previously stood for the party in Manor ward in the 2015 and 2016 elections when he twice came second behind the Liberal Democrats – said: “I would like to express deep regret for the offensive comments I made 13 years ago.

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“I offer my unreserved apologies for any hurt caused by that blog post and I would like to stress that I have moved on and am no longer the angry and bitter person that I was in 2005.”

According to his now-deleted Facebook profile, Mr Clarke holds a PhD in historical theology and works as a substance misuse worker. He described himself online as a “fundamentalist Christian” and an “orthodox Roman Catholic”.

In his 2005 post, made on the day same-sex civil partnerships became legal, Mr Clarke wrote: “When such behaviour is tolerated in a land it can only expect to see God’s judgment. I really must hurry up with my PhD course and get out of here.

“In my experience, most people believe that such behaviour is wrong and disgusting. They would be ashamed for their children to behave in that way, but they would never admit it for fear of being accused of bigotry.

“Why should we tolerate such behaviour? If these people think that what they do is decent and good, they are either insane or utterly corrupt morally.

“If a man would do the awful things that homosexuals do, we can only expect that he would steal, take drugs or murder people.

“There is only one penalty in the Bible for such deeds. Death.”

In his Twitter biography, Mr Clarke described himself as “pro-EU, pro-NATO, pro-immigration, anti-racist, pro-life” and indicated support for a universal basic income. On his blog, entitled ‘Shoes Off At the Door, Please,’ he listed 37 reasons why people should remove their shoes when entering a house.