Gloucestershire

Cheltenham Lib Dem chair quits after sex worker debate

Tim Farron (Lib Dem party leader) at the start of the Lib Dem party conference Image copyright PA
Image caption Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said he did not agree with the councillor's views but welcomed debate

A leading Liberal Democrat has quit after appearing to compare prostitution with accountancy as a career option.

At the party's conference, Cheltenham's Dennis Parsons questioned why prostitution was not suggested as a career for pupils.

He said: "The fact that we are asking 'should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?' is part of the problem."

Party leader Tim Farron did not agree with the view but welcomed the debate.

Prostitution vs accountancy

But despite not being "slapped down" by the party leader, the town's parliamentary candidate Martin Horwood asked the councillor to step down as party chair.

Mr Horwood described the comments as "misjudged".

During the debate, Mr Parsons discussed how to combat the stigma attached to sex work.

He said: "The fact that we are asking 'should we seek to prevent people entering sex work?' is part of the problem.

"You wouldn't ask the question 'should we prevent people becoming accountants?' You'd just take it for granted.

"There is a stronger case, probably, for that than there is for preventing sex work.

"We have had a chap suggest that one of the areas we need to be concerned about was families coercing people to go into the sex trade.

"Well, again, you wouldn't protest at families urging and coercing people into becoming accountants."

Image copyright SPL
Image caption The debate centred on combating the stigma attached to sex work

Mr Farron said he disagreed with Mr Parsons' comments, but added sometimes "shocking things" needed to be said to spark debate.

In a statement sent to the BBC, Mr Parsons said he did not put the comments forward as a serious suggestion.

He wrote: "It was meant as a rhetorical question as everyone, including myself, would consider it unthinkable."

He also apologised unreservedly to anyone offended by his remarks.

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