In October 2006 David Clutterbuck, a 72 year-old Conservative councillor, found himself the laughing stock of the nation thanks to a joke he forwarded on to fellow council members at Bournemouth Borough Council.
Ironically enough, the joke itself was determinedly unfunny: a description of the trouble Noah would have floating his ark nowadays thanks to the need to consult planning rules, building regulations, environmental impact studies, fire and safety regulations and the RSPCA over animal welfare.
It was Mr Clutterbuck’s additional observation that raised eyebrows. “I imagine now it would be illegal to only have animals of the opposite sex!” he wrote and pressed, “reply all.”
Naturally, the more sensitive councillors in a town with a large and thriving homosexual population quickly spotted the potential offence his comments might cause – and shopped him to the papers.
“I don’t know whether I’m daft but I still don’t know what I have done to upset them so much,” responded Mr Clutterbuck in response to the subsequent furore. “I have never even remotely done anything against anyone who was homosexual.”
He added: “It’s absolute nonsense. I’m not apologising. I have not done anything wrong.”
When asked if he was homophobic, he replied firmly in the negative. “I’m not homophobic at all and I never have been.”
This admirable assertion was slightly muddied, however, by his subsequent remarks.
“I was brought up as a Christian and have Christian beliefs and I do think that certain things are wrong but these are my thoughts and I keep them to myself.
“Like a lot of people my age, until I was 18 it was an illegal offence and there are certain things that are inherent in us.
“As long as they do it behind closed doors I don’t mind, but they [homosexuals] control the media, the television. They have much stronger control than they should have.”
Mr Clutterbuck, who has been a councillor for 19 years, said he has had more than 100 emails supporting him. One of these emails stated: “Well done Mr Clutterbuck. It’s good to know there’s at least one Conservative left in the new Conservative party. Please don’t let them pressure you into apologising. Your country and sanity need you to stand your ground.”
It is unknown whether the writer was employing irony or not.