Outrage at Mayor's claim of lessons to learn from Taliban

ON the day his town's failing social services department was making national headlines again, the elected Mayor of Doncaster faced a backlash after claiming that Britain could learn lessons on society from the Taliban.

Peter Davies' comments that the Taliban had "an ordered society of some sort" and appeared to have a "decent sort of family affairs" were condemned by war hero Ben Parkinson as well as senior Government Ministers.

Mayor Davies defended his comments by claiming he was using hyperbole to show how bad UK society had become. He insisted he "detested" the Taliban.

But last night Labour MPs attempted to drag the Tories into the row, saying party leader David Cameron would be showing "tacit support" for Mayor Davies unless Tory councillors were withdrawn from Doncaster's Cabinet.

Four local MPs, including Cabinet Minister Ed Miliband and Minister for Yorkshire Rosie Winterton, said the comments "show a lack of respect for women and for basic human freedoms", and could not be justified.

The controversy was sparked by comments made by the Mayor in a national newspaper in which he was reported as saying the UK could learn lessons in family values from the Taliban and quoted him as saying, "Who says we have the moral right to tell Afghan society how to live?"

In a further interview yesterday, he said: "The one thing to be said about the Taliban is that they do have an ordered society of some sort and that they don't have hundreds of cases of children under threat of abuse from violent parents, as we have in Doncaster.

"The point I was making was that even a regime as hideous as the Taliban at least appear to have sort of decent sort of family affairs. In fact probably...they have an ordered society.

"We in this country have created mayhem through lax social policies of disregard for marriage and the family and we have created mayhem in society."

Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson from Bessacarr, Doncaster, who lost both his legs and suffered 37 other injuries when the vehicle he was travelling in was blown up in Helmand province in Afghanistan, condemned the comments.

"If they have an ordered society it is ordered by anyone who steps out of line being threatened with death," he said.

His mother Diane Dernie said: "I don't pretend to understand the Taliban. But I do understand hyperbole and I understand how painful what he has said must be for the families of the wounded and those who have lost their sons, and to the soldiers who are out there."

In a letter to Mr Cameron released last night, the four MPs – also including Caroline Flint and Jeff Ennis – said: "As you will know the Taliban's approach to family affairs has been to deny people basic human rights, such as stopping women attending school or leaving the house without their husbands. Those not following their orders would face harsh punishments including stoning and public execution.

"These comments show a lack of respect for women and for basic human freedoms, both of which are things that the British public and the people of Doncaster hold dear."

They called on Mr Cameron to distance himself from the comments and urge his councillors to withdraw from the authority's Cabinet.

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