BEMUSED inhabitants of Bridlington were last night coming to terms with losing thousands of pounds worth of trade after the National Association of Probation Officers members branded the town as politically incorrect.
Hoteliers and restaurateurs heard that left-wing members of Britain's most right-on union had persuaded colleagues that holding an annual conference in the resort would be offensive to homosexuals, blacks, Asians and women.
Mary Davies, who resigned from the union's national executive committee rather than go to Humberside, claimed that members would feel 'isolated' and would be likely to experience 'racist and oppressive behaviour'. When asked why, she said there had been an 'incident' involving a black member at a previous probation officers' conference in Bridlington, but she could 'not remember the details'.
Yesterday, the union leadership tacitly admitted the boycott had worked: 700 members were needed to make the Bridlington AGM quorate, Harry Fletcher, a NAPO spokesman said, and just 325 had registered. 'We have been forced to take a pragmatic decision to go to Derby instead,' he said. 'We regret that the people of Bridlington feel insulted.'
Bridlington's tourist board said that any accusation of prejudice was a ludicrous slur. There had been no recent case of sexual assault, 'gay bashing' or racial abuse.
Local officials did, however, admit that the probation officers may have been unused to local plain speaking. One Napo conference organiser said she was told by a hotelier. 'I hope you're not like Cohse (the health service union). My staff had their backs to the wall all the time they were here.'