If there were any doubts about Adrian Watson’s unsuitability as a Conservative and Unionist Parliamentary Party Candidate they have been laid to rest by his reaction to de-selection. A series of spittle flecked, scattergun rants have appeared in the media ever since the decision on his prospective candidacy was formalised.
Following Chris Grayling’s unofficial foray into the debate about guest houses which refuse to accommodate gay couples, Watson has pounced yet again and one of his more temperate lines of attack alleges Conservative ‘double standards’.
Apart from the obvious fact that there were concerns over Watson’s possible candidacy, which had nothing to do with bed, breakfast or homosexuality, from the moment he signalled his intention to stand, Grayling’s case bears no serious comparison.
Despite misleading headlines in the Observer, Grayling made a reasonable point, in moderate language, at a private discussion of the issue. Bed and breakfast owners, he suggested, formed a different category to hotel owners and should have the right to determine which guests they were prepared to welcome into their own homes.
Whether you agree with him or not, and personally I am undecided, it was not an outrageous statement. It was certainly not, and this is important, comparable with expressing his own reluctance to house guests, based on their sexuality.
Clearly there are a spectrum of views and behaviours that, as a society, we do not declare unlawful, but which are nonetheless incompatible with candidate selection for a modern, moderate political party. Grayling expressed a view on the extent of that spectrum, Watson placed himself within its parameters. We can uphold the right to hold a set of views, without condoning their content.
The truth remains that both the Conservative party and Ulster Unionists were concerned about Watson’s propensity for immoderate outbursts on a range of subjects. He has responded to their decision with a volley of immoderate outbursts. The decision is therefore vindicated.