The Labour MP who supported parents objecting to their children being taught about same-sex relationships has resigned from Charlton Athletic’s community trust, the leader of Greenwich Council said last night.
Godsiff, a former ceremonial mayor of Lewisham who is now an MP in Birmingham, gave his support to protesters at Anderton Park Primary School, inside his constituency of Hall Green, earlier this month.
The Charlton Athletic Community Trust provides youth services for Greenwich Council and takes part in public health initiatives and other community schemes across south-east London and Kent.
853 revealed last week that his position at the trust was under threat because of his comments, which led to him receiving a reprimand from Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown.
Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe announced Godsiff’s resignation at a full council meeting after a question from his Labour colleague, Woolwich Common councillor Anthony Okereke. (watch here)
“This is a council that doesn’t tolerate hate and it would be nice if we could reaffirm our position on his issue,” Okereke said, pointing to the success of the “pride crossings” placed at three locations in the borough to mark Pride in London month.
“People on all sides have raised significant concerns about the comments and behaviour of Roger Godsiff, particularly outside that school in Birmingham that has been the scene of such appalling behaviour,” Thorpe said.
Holding a printout of an email from the trust, he said: “I received at 17.39, an email from the trust that Roger Godsiff has resigned with immediate effect as the chair of the trust and from the board, and we look forward to continuing to work with Charlton Athletic Community Trust as an inclusive place and a borough of love and not hate.”
Godsiff said in a statement released by the trust: “I feel it necessary to step down from my role as Chair and from the Board in view of the controversy relating to the teaching in two schools in Birmingham, one of which is in my constituency.
“I am extremely proud of everything CACT has achieved over many years and it’s been a huge privilege and pleasure to oversee some outstanding work that has been recognised locally, nationally and internationally.
“I would like to thank my fellow trustees, executive team and all staff at CACT for their support, hard work and dedication over many years and wish them every success in the future”.
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. The trust is a separate organisation from the football club, and has continued to flourish despite turbulence caused by the eccentric Belgian electronics magnate Roland Duchâtelet, the Addicks’ widely-loathed owner.
Godsiff defended his comments in a debate he called in the House of Commons on Monday, but the education minister, Nick Gibb, said the government would defend schools, while Godsiff’s fellow Labour MP, Angela Eagle, said in an emotional contribution: “We aren’t going to get back in the closet.”
Earlier in the meeting, and after a question from Greenwich West councillor Mehboob Khan, Thorpe, a former teacher, said: “I think we can all agree that this country should have had proper sex and relationship educations for a long time, and the adjournment debate in the Commons yesterday was a reminder of the importance of that education and the commitment to that education. Having done a few things as leader, I’ve never had as many positive emails [about anything] after painting the roads with rainbows, which is a sign of just how far we’ve come.”
Referring to the failed national Conservative leadership candidate who supported parents pulling children out of lessons about same-sex relationships, he added: “Thank God Esther McVey is nowhere near the final two choices.” The council’s Conservative leader of the opposition, Matt Hartley, said: “I agree.”
However, Thorpe declined to criticise New Wine Church, another organisation with strong links to the council, which has invited Creflo Dollar, an opponent of equal marriage, to speak at an event next week.
Conservative councillor Charlie Davis asked if the church’s invite to Dollar “breaches our community partner pledge” – a document signed by faith groups promising to work with all sections of the community. (watch here)
Thorpe responded: “I would just stress that New Wine along with a number of religious organisations signed our community partnership pledge, which states very clearly our aspirations that we’re tring to do. Clearly, we have no power to stop anyone from speaking at a church and if people are concerned about hate preachers then that is a matter that the Met Police can pick up and we’ve done that on a number of occasions.
“I’m going to continue to work with all of the religious groups and faith communities in our borough who do incredible things for Greenwich.”
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