853 exclusive: The Labour MP Roger Godsiff’s position as the chair of Charlton Athletic Community Trust looks to be in question after he was given a formal warning by his party for supporting parents who objected to their children being taught about same-sex relationships.
Godsiff, a former ceremonial mayor of Lewisham, gave his support to protesters at Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham, inside his constituency of Hall Green. A High Court judge said the protests probably “strayed into harassing, alarming and distressing conduct”
The party’s shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, reported the comments – which were captured on video – to the chief whip, Nick Brown. Labour said his behaviour had fallen “below the standards expected of a Labour MP” and that the comments must not be repeated.
The Charlton-supporting MP’s behaviour will be discussed by trustees at their meeting next week, the trust has told 853.
Godsiff was a councillor in Lewisham for 19 years, acting as mayor in 1977, before stepping down as Bellingham councillor in 1990 to pursue a career in the Commons. He has been an MP in Birmingham since 1992 but retains links with SE London, and helped found the Charlton Athletic Community Trust in 2003.
Despite the turbulence at its parent football club under the ownership of eccentric Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet, the trust – a separate organisation – has continued to flourish. As well as the football programmes it grew out of, it now provides youth services for Greenwich Council and takes part in public health initiatives and other community schemes across south-east London and Kent.
Both the club and trust have also embraced an LGBT-friendly team, Charlton Invicta, with the club holding its annual Charlton v Homophobia tournament at The Valley at the end of May.
A trust spokesperson told 853: “We are aware of the situation regarding our chair of trustees Roger Godsiff MP in his Birmingham constituency and this will be discussed at the board of trustees meeting taking place next week.
“Charlton Athletic Community Trust is an inclusive organisation and we are proud of our work in promoting equality, and fully committed to tackling all forms of discrimination.”
Godsiff’s comments have also been noted at Greenwich Council, which this week unveiled rainbow crossings in Greenwich, Woolwich and Plumstead as part of the Pride In London festival.
Council leader Danny Thorpe said: “We are committed to promoting equality and are aware of the comments made by MP Roger Godsiff, which we do not agree with.
“Charlton Athletic Community Trust will be discussing his comments at an upcoming board of trustees meeting, and the council expects an update following this discussion.”
5.45pm update: Roger Godsiff has responded to this story by sending 853 a letter he sent to an individual who complained about his comments, which he forwarded to Charlton Athletic Community Trust’s chief executive Jason Morgan with the comment: “I have seen what you sent across and it’s factually incorrect. Enclosed is an email… which you may want to share with Danny Thorpe and the other trustees and also refer them to the statements on my website.”
In the email, Godsiff says: “If you can show me any comment, or statement, that I have made disrespecting the LGBT community then I would be pleased to see it, but as I have never done so you may wish to offer an apology.
“The dispute is purely and simply about a headteacher choosing to teach the Equality Act without explaining it to parents; having consultation and ongoing consultation with them; showing them the type of material that she proposed using; engaging with them about what age was most appropriate for the various ‘protected characteristics’ to be taught to young children and seeking their opinions as has happened throughout Birmingham at other primary schools.
“If you take the opinion that it is purely a matter for the headteacher to decide, and that its nothing to do with parents, then you are entitled to that viewpoint, but I take a contrary one, namely that the Equality Act is not an ‘exam subject’ and that it not only is sensible, but essential, as the guidance acknowledges, that the parents are involved, and that is the reason that I take the view that the parents had a valid reason for protesting.”
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