Anger over election decision of politician who made ‘abhorrent’ comments


theweek120by150A Cornish politician who was forced to resign after suggesting that disabled children should be “put down” because they cost too much money to support has decided to stand again for election.

Colin Brewer’s decision to seek election back onto Cornwall Council has caused anger and disbelief among disabled people who were outraged by his comments.

Brewer had made the remarks to a staff member of the disabled people’s organisation Disability Cornwall, at a council-run equality and diversity event in Truro in October 2011, but they only emerged in February this year following a lengthy council disciplinary process.

The independent councillor had told Theresa Court, Disability Cornwall’s advice services manager: “Disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down.”

Following worldwide condemnation of his words, Brewer was forced to resign.

But he has now decided to stand again in his ward of Wadebridge East on 2 May.

Disability Cornwall said his comments were “abhorrent”, and added: “If he now wishes to re-stand, that is a matter for him and his conscience and it must be left to the electorate to decide if he is fit to hold office.”

A Disability Cornwall spokesman acknowledged Brewer’s 27 years of service to the local community, but added: “We would be surprised if he garnered much support after his comments, considering the outcry [caused by]such horrendous comments.”

He said Brewer had made no attempt to contact them or any other organisation representing disabled children or their families in the wake of the incident.

He also pointed to the six-line apology Brewer sent to Disability Cornwall, which was posted with a second-class stamp.

The spokesman said: “If Mr Brewer was generally sorry for the offense he had caused, did he not stop to think that a six-line typed statement on a hastily-folded piece of paper in an envelope with a second-class stamp, could only be interpreted as to the contrary?”

Scott Mann, a Conservative councillor in the neighbouring ward of Wadebridge West and his party’s parliamentary candidate for North Cornwall, said people in the town had been talking to him about Brewer’s comments.

He said: “Colin has represented Wadebridge for a long time. Up to that point he did a very good job. That’s where his support comes from. The question will be will they forgive?

“There was a very mixed reception. I had people saying to me he should have resigned immediately, and I also had people saying, ‘Surely he didn’t say that, that’s not the person I know.’

“If people think Mr Brewer is an appropriate person to represent Wadebridge they will have their say at the ballot box.”

But Maria Zedda, managing director of Wideaware Training, which last month launched a new e-learning disability equality tool for the House of Commons, said she hoped the council would offer the same training to their councillors.

She said: “The job of a politician is to serve their communities and such discriminatory attitudes against disabled people cannot be allowed by those representing the great people of the UK.

“I have offered disability e-learning to MPs at the House of Commons but clearly there is a far greater need for disability awareness for all politicians across the board, especially councillors, as their decisions can affect disabled children and people very closely.”

Ray Clarke, a disabled campaigner who lives on the border between Cornwall and Devon, said Brewer’s comments were “disgraceful”.

He has contacted Cornwall Council’s chief executive to suggest that the organisation improves its disability equality training.

The council declined to comment on Brewer’s decision to stand again for re-election.

Brewer has so far refused to comment.

11 April 2013