Boy George ridicules tycoon over Section 28 repeal

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The Independent Online

The gay pop star Boy George last night ridiculed Stagecoach tycoon Brian Souter over his opposition to the repeal of Section 28, which bans schools from "promoting" homosexuality, when the two met for the first time in a television debate.

The former Culture Club lead singer clashed with Mr Souter on BBC1's Question Time programme when the businessman defended his privately funded referendum on repeal in Scotland on the grounds that there was widespread parental opposition to repeal.

Boy George said Mr Souter was able to call his referendum only because of his wealth. "If Brian was a wealthy racist, would we all be sitting here saying he has a right to express his views? No, we would not.

"The idea that if you teach people about homosexuality they become gay is rubbish.Christianity is taught at school but not everybody becomes a Christian." Boy George said it was ridiculous to imply homosexuals were a danger to children, adding: "He talks about protecting children. I'm a godparent, I have nieces and nephews, should I be kept away from them all my life?"

Mr Souter said he had a right to organise the referendum because there was huge concern in Scotland about the issue. In a reference to documents produced by Islington council in London, which provoked the imposition of the clause in the Local Government Act by Margaret Thatcher, he said the proposed abolition of Section 28 was an attempt to "force Islington morality" on Scottish children.

The two men had been expected to set off a bitter argument on the programme, but in the event they had a civilised exchange and happily shook hands after the discussion.

Boy George also clashed with the shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, Angela Browning, when she said that Section 28 was necessary to stop homosexuality being advocated in schools. "Nobody is promoting it. The use of that word is totally paranoid. If you educate kids about Nazi Germany, are you promoting Nazism?" he said.

Earlier ministers announced plans to issue Scottish local authorities with legally enforceable guidance on the sex education in schools, in what was seen as a concession to Mr Souter.

He has spent £1m on his Keep the Clause campaign, and sent millions of ballot papers to Scottish homes for an "Independent Referendum" on the issue.

On Wednesday Boy George told MPs and ministers at the House of Commons about the prejudices he had encountered as a child. He told them: "I had five brothers and I was brought up drinking the same water and being fed the same doctrine as my brothers, but somehow I turned out to be a fabulous homosexual."