'Openly racist' Tory councillor quits over boarding school comments

Stedham, West Sussex, will be the home to 600 pupils from Stockwell if the plans go ahead
Stedham, West Sussex, will be the home to 600 pupils from Stockwell if the plans go ahead
Alex Stevenson By

The Conservative councillor who feared a 'sexual volcano' at a new boarding school has resigned his party after acknowledging "extremely foolish" remarks.

John Cherry quit after suggesting children of different nationalities would behave differently at the new school in West Sussex.

The Durand Academy in Stockwell, south London, is planning on opening a new school in Stedham – but the proposals have triggered opposition from those in the village.

Cherry had been at the forefront of the campaign to prevent the establishment of the new boarding school, which will take up 20 acres on the site of an existing disused boarding school, St Cuthman's. His line of criticism, condemned by Labour as "openly racist", is unlikely to help his cause.


"Ninety-seven per cent of pupils will be black or Asian," he explained to the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

"It depends what type of Asian. If they're Chinese they'll rise to the top. If they're Indian they'll rise to the top. If they're Pakistani they won't."

Making his meaning crystal clear, he continued: "There are certain nationalities where hard work is highly valued. There are certain nationalities where they are uncertain what this hard work is all about."

The comments prompted a storm of outrage from Labour. Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said: "When a Tory councillor makes openly racist comments like these, it's no surprise people still think of the Conservatives as the nasty party.

"David Cameron must condemn his councillor's words and take immediate action against Councillor Cherry to show that he will not accept racism in his party."

The Tory party responded by condemning Cherry's comments as "completely unacceptable" and the councillor himself issued a statement acknowledging the errors of his ways.

"My remarks about Durand Academy, as reported in the Mail on Sunday, were plainly wrong," he said.

"They were thoughtless and extremely foolish. I unreservedly apologise and withdraw them. I very much regret the distress this must have caused."

The Chichester district council website reveals Cherry, who was educated at Wellington and Cambridge University, is a chartered accountant who is "passionate about the preservation of this beautiful area for current and future generations".

The local council is dominated by Tories, with 37 Conservatives and eight Liberal Democrats.

"If the children are not allowed out of the site then it will make them want to escape into the forest - it will be a sexual volcano," Cherry had added in his comments to the Mail on Sunday.

"Has anyone asked whether these children want to be plucked from their natural surroundings? They have never done boarding before, so they won't know how it works."

Labour MP Kate Hoey tweeted: "I invite Cllr Cherry to visit Durand Academy in Stockwell to meet those who will be boarding. Stedham will gain hugely from their presence."

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