Theresa May defends Darlington Conservative candidate

image copyrightWPA Pool
image captionThe PM met Peter Cuthbertson during a visit to Darlington, last month

Theresa May has defended a Conservative candidate who made online comments on rape and homosexuality which were labelled "absolutely shocking".

Peter Cuthbertson, standing in Darlington, said a woman's sexual past should be included in rape trials as promiscuity may affect consent.

He wrote the posts in 2002 and said he no longer holds such opinions.

When asked if the comments were appropriate, Mrs May said: "Peter has made it clear his views have changed."

Mr Cuthbertson wrote women of "low morals were more likely to consent to sex and to lie" and suggested people who do not treat foetuses as unique human lives are "wilfully ignorant, scientifically".

He also posted about a "courageous priest jailed in Sweden for preaching against homosexuality".

Andrew Gwynne, Labour's national election coordinator, told The Guardian the blogposts were "absolutely shocking".

Mrs May added: "I have been very clear as Home Secretary over six years and continuing as Prime Minister, there's a number of issues I've been addressing, particularly around domestic violence.

"We're seeing more people willing to come forward and report allegations of rape and we're seeing more prosecutions."

Party 'changed'

Mr Cuthbertson said in a statement: "I made those comments on a blog as a teenager and I definitely don't have all the same views as my adolescent self.

"The Conservative Party has changed a lot since I was a Darlington teenager in 2002 and so have I. I recall I was supportive of military intervention in Iraq and of Section 28 then - not positions I now hold."

Section 28 was the law banning councils and schools in England and Wales from intentionally promoting homosexuality. It was repealed in 2003.

Mrs May also used the high-profile speech to set out her vision of European Union withdrawal as part of a "great national mission" to build a "stronger, fairer and more prosperous Britain".

In the speech in Guisborough, she said: "If they do, I am confident that we can fulfil the promise of Brexit together and build a Britain that is stronger, fairer and even more prosperous than it is today."