Labour chair apologises over social media remark as electioneering starts
10th April 2019
Battle lines have been drawn for next month's council elections with almost 80 candidates from across the political parties putting their names on the ballot papers for the borough of Tunbridge Wells.
But the election controversies have already started with the Chairman of Tunbridge Wells Labour Party who is also a prospective councillor, being forced to apologise after using derogatory language to describe disabled people.
Bjorn Simpole, who is the Labour Party candidate for Rusthall, used the term ‘spacker’ to describe disabled people when referring to blue badge holders.
The father-of-one, who lives in Rusthall, used the word in a conversation with a number of people on social media platform, Facebook.
The comment, which was posted on a private group chat several months ago appalled some members enough that they took a screenshot of the conversation. A copy of the screen shot came into the possession of the Times last week.
The term ‘spacker’ is derived from the word ‘spastic’ and is used as a derogatory reference to people with disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy.
The charity Scope, which campaigns to challenge and change negative attitudes about disability, said the comment was ‘inexcusable’.
Phil Talbot, Head of Communications at the disability charity said yesterday [Tuesday] : “It is an inexcusable comment. Offensive language can have a serious impact on the lives of disabled people.
“Scope research shows that half of disabled people feel excluded from society.
“Life is harder than it should be if you’re disabled. From facing negative attitudes from others, struggling to get the right care and support, facing difficulties travelling via public transport, or to getting into and staying in work. This needs to change.”
He added: “Disabled people deserve to be treated with equal respect.”
Mr Simpole has this week apologised for his remark, which he said was ‘foolish’ and in ‘poor judgement’.
He said: “It has been brought to my attention that I posted a derogatory term towards disabled people some months ago in a closed Facebook group called ‘What’s Wrong with Tunbridge Wells’.
“Using this term was hugely inappropriate and I apologise for offence this may have caused. It does not reflect who I am or the values I hold; I am embarrassed about the word I have used and it is totally out of character.”
He continued: “The Facebook group referred to takes a light-hearted look at life in Tunbridge Wells and I believe that, to make a point, I foolishly repeated back a term used by others in the group in a previous conversation.
“I accept that repeating this inappropriate word was very poor judgement on my part and is not consistent with Labour Party values’.”