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'Sterilise benefit spongers' row councillor quits for next adventure

Under fire: Cllr John Ward
Under fire: Cllr John Ward

The Tory at the centre of a row over the sterilisation of "benefit spongers" quit on Tuesday.

His shock exit came after Medway council member John Ward learned he faced expulsion from his group for suggesting, on his personal website, that parents on benefit should be compulsorily sterilised.

His comments, exclusively reported by the Medway Messenger on Monday, were picked up by the national press and created an outcry. On Tuesday afternoon Mr Ward wrote on his website:

"I have today, after a lot of thought, resigned from the council.

"I wasn't going to do so originally, but in today's Soviet-style Britain, with all the pressures coming down upon us from on high and with yet more to come ... all the indicators are that recent events have, funnily enough, afforded me an opportunity to 'get out from under' before even more bureaucracy hits local Councillors.

"Therefore this 'blog (which was initially just an experiment anyway) will close very soon.

"As for me: I look forward to the next adventure in my life, wherever that should turn out to be - just as I did when I moved here eleven years ago, not knowing what lay ahead of me then."

Earlier, the leader of Medway Council Conservatives, Cllr Rodney Chambers, suspended him with immediate effect after what he termed "deplorable comments". A Conservative Party spokesman said: “These remarks are abhorrent and the Conservative Party disassociates itself from them.”

In a statement Cllr Chambers, leader of Medway Council, said: "Cllr Ward has been suspended from the Conservative Group pending consideration of this matter at its earliest opportunity.

"I have always stated that I expect all members to demonstrate and uphold the highest standards in public office and public life," he said. Shortly afterwards John Ward announced on his web site that he was a "former" councillor.

In an entry on his blog on March 15 about the discovery of missing schoolgirl Shannon Matthews, Cllr Ward described the fact she was from a family of seven children, fathered by five men, as an example of what he called "Breakdown Britain".

The Rochester South and Horsted councillor wrote: "I think there is an increasingly strong case for compulsory sterilisation of all those who have had a second child (or third, or whatever) while living off state hand-outs.

"It would clearly take a lot of social pressures off all concerned, thus protecting the youngsters themselves to some degree, and remove the incentive to breed for greed, i.e. for more public subsidy."

The comments made national headlines, including in The Mail, The Mirror and The Daily Telegraph. Councillors and activists from across the political spectrum have called for his resignation.

The blog has since been withdrawn from Cllr Ward's website and an entry on Easter Sunday headed "Above the parapet" deals with the criticism he has received.

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