School dominated by black and Asian pupils will lead to a "sexual volcano", warns Tory councillor

Allowing the Durand Academy in Brixton to open a branch in West Sussex will lead to a "sexual volcano" with too many pupils from "nationalities where they are uncertain what hard work is about", says councillor.

The Durand Academy in Brixton is a high-performing London school whose leadership has been repeatedly praised by education secretary Michael Gove.

Next year, it plans to open a second site in Stedham, West Sussex where pupils will be housed Monday to Friday in a disused school building. 

The Mail on Sunday today reports that several Stedham residents have objected to the scheme. While some of those quoted undoubtedly have genuine objections, there are also some whose statements range from the eyebrow-raising to the outright shocking.

For example, John Cherry, county councillor for Midhurst, told the MoS:

"Ninety-seven per cent of pupils will be black or Asian. It depends what type of Asian. If they’re Chinese they’ll rise to the top. If they’re Indian they’ll rise to the top. If they’re Pakistani they won’t.

"There are certain nationalities where hard work is highly valued. There are certain nationalities where they are uncertain what this hard work is all about.

"If the children are not allowed out of the site then it will make them want to escape into the forest – it will be a sexual volcano.

"Stockwell is a coloured area – I have no problem with that. To be honest, I would far rather Durand took over a secondary school in London rather than shoving everybody here."

Cherry won his county council seat in November 2012 with 78 per cent of the vote. The only other candidate was Ukip's Douglas Denny, who gained 21.8 per cent. 

Cherry has been contacted for comment.

Update, 3pm: Labour's education spokesman Stephen Twigg made this statement earlier today: "When a Tory councillor makes openly racist comments like these, it's no surprise people still think of the Conservatives as the nasty party. David Cameron must condemn his councillor's words and take immediate action against Councillor Cherry to show that he will not accept racism in his party."

James Chapman, the Daily Mail's political editor, has just tweeted the following, making it likely that John Cherry will not be a Conservative councillor for much longer.

Update 22 April 2013 8.20am:

John Cherry has now resigned as a councillor. In a statement, he said:

My remarks about Durand Academy, as reported in the Mail on Sunday, were plainly wrong. They were thoughtless and extremely foolish. I unreservedly apologise and withdraw them. I very much regret the distress this must have caused.

According to the BBC, a Conservative Party spokesman said Cherry's comments were "totally unacceptable" and did "not reflect the views of the Conservative Party".

Michael Gove has praised the Durand Academy. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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The government has admitted it can curb drugs without criminalising users

Under the Psychoactive Substances Act it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess for their own consumption recreational drugs too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

From Thursday, it may be illegal for churches to use incense. They should be safe from prosecution though, because, as the policing minister was forced to clarify, the mind-altering effects of holy smells aren’t the intended target of the Psychoactive Substances Act, which comes into force this week.

Incense-wafters aren’t the only ones wondering whether they will be criminalised by the Act. Its loose definition of psychoactive substances has been ridiculed for apparently banning, among other things, flowers, perfume and vaping.

Anyone writing about drugs can save time by creating a shortcut to insert the words “the government has ignored its advisors” and this Act was no exception. The advisory council repeatedly warned the government that its definition would both ban things that it didn’t mean to prohibit and could, at the same time, be unenforcable. You can guess how much difference these interventions made.

But, bad though the definition is – not a small problem when the entire law rests on it – the Act is actually much better than is usually admitted.

Under the law, it will not be a criminal offence for someone to possess, for their own consumption, recreational drugs that are considered too dangerous to be legally sold to the public.

That sounds like a mess, and it is. But it’s a mess that many reformers have long advocated for other drugs. Portugal decriminalised drug possession in 2001 while keeping supply illegal, and its approach is well-regarded by reformers, including the Liberal Democrats, who pledged to adopt this model in their last manifesto.

This fudge is the best option out of what was politically possible for dealing with what, until this week, were called legal highs.

Before the Act, high-street shops were free to display new drugs in their windows. With 335 head shops in the UK, the drugs were visible in everyday places – giving the impression that they couldn’t be that dangerous. As far as the data can be trusted, it’s likely that dozens of people are now dying each year after taking the drugs.

Since legal highs were being openly sold and people were thought to be dying from them, it was obvious that the government would have to act. Until it did, every death would be blamed on its inaction, even if the death rate for users of some newly banned drugs may be lower than it is for those who take part in still-legal activities like football. The only question was what the government would do.

The most exciting option would have been for it to incentivise manufacturers to come up with mind-altering drugs that are safe to take. New Zealand is allowing drug makers to run trials of psychoactive drugs, which could eventually – if proved safe enough – be sold legally. One day, this might change the world of drug-taking, but this kind of excitement was never going to appeal to Theresa May’s Home Office.

What was far more plausible was that the government would decide to treat new drugs like old ones. Just as anyone caught with cocaine or ecstasy faces a criminal record, so users of new drugs could have been hit with the same. This was how legal highs have been treated up until now when one was considered serious enough to require a ban.

But instead, the government has recognised that its aim – getting new drugs out of high-street shop windows so they don’t seem so normal – didn’t depend on criminalising users. A similar law in Ireland achieved precisely this. To its credit, the government realised it would be disproportionate to make it a criminal offence to possess the now-illegal highs.

The reality of the law will look chaotic. Users will still be able to buy new drugs online – which could open them to prosecution for import – and the law will do nothing to make drugs any safer. Some users might now be exposed to dealers who also want to sell them more dangerous other drugs. There will be few prosecutions and some head shop owners might try to pick holes in the law: the government seems to have recognised that it needed a better definition to have any chance of making the law stick.

But, most importantly for those of us who think the UK’s drug laws should be better at reducing the damage drugs cause, the government, for the first time, has decided that a class of recreational drugs are too dangerous to be sold but that it shouldn’t be a crime to possess them. The pressure on the government to act on legal highs has been relieved, without ordinary users being criminalised. For all the problems with the new law, it’s a step in the right direction.

Leo Barasi is a former Head of Communications at the UK Drug Policy Commission. He writes in a personal capacity