The not so lovely Candy Atherton is alleged to have asked Paul Phillips, her former gay research assistant, to “dig the dirt”
on her gay Tory rival and look for anything “salacious”
in the past of Ashley Crossley, who is running for her seat. Phillips refused and resigned from his job and is now beginning proceedings for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Phillips argues that to be asked to root around for gossip was offensive and not part of his job description as a research assistant. How touchingly naive. Rooting around for offensive gossip is my role anyway.
He told the first tribunal hearing that Crossley’s sexuality became the focus of the MP and her campaign team because they “didn’t know him and couldn’t find out any information about him”. Tribunal chairman Mary Stacey said that Phillips felt used by his employer. But now he’s strong, you think he’d crumble, you think he’d lay down and die, Oh no, not he, he will survive….
“He is an openly gay man who felt he was used by his employer to make inquiries into somebody’s sexual orientation,” she told the hearing. “As a gay man, he feels it is offensive to think of someone’s sexual orientation as something salacious that would be given undue prominence because he is not heterosexual.”
“It took all the strength I had, not to fall apart, kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart, and I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself, I used to cry, Now I hold my head up high, and you see me somebody new, I’m not that chained up little person still working for you.”
Mr Phillips told the tribunal: “(I was) being asked to dig the dirt on Mr Crossley. Facts about Mr Crossley’s sexual orientation and lifestyle could only be used to damage him. There could be no other reason for wanting this kind of information. I felt very much on the spot being asked to check on a fellow gay man’s lifestyle, especially someone standing for Parliament in Cornwall, a fairly homophobic area.” The 36-year-old, from Wapping, east London, told the hearing in Croydon that Ms Atherton approached him one day with a ‘research project’. “She said she had been doing some research and had found out that Ashley Crossley, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate selected to stand against her, was gay and visited bars in Soho looking for men” – which is a pretty good place to look.
“I said ‘I can’t do anything which is homophobic.’ Candy said she wasn’t going to do anything that was homophobic but she just believed in people being open about what they did.”
Mr Phillips, who is claiming discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, was employed by Ms Atherton for 12 months until he resigned in March 2004. He said: “I believe that the only reason Candy asked me to check on Mr Crossley’s lifestyle was because I was a gay man. I do not believe that this was a normal part of a research assistant’s job or that she would have asked a straight man or woman to do it… I felt humiliated that she should expect me to behave like this.”
Ashley Crossley has other enemies (see). He was faced with a deselection vote earlier this year, in a row with local Tories tainted with homophobia. Despite him receiving support from party leader Michael Howard, some local councillors objected to him and have since resigned.
A Guido source wonders if Candy was trying to find out if Crossley was local. There is a clear similarity…