“We need a lap dancing club” – Kendal Tory Councillor’s big idea for economic regeneration

Last night, South Lakeland District Council discussed its local plan. Councillors were free to offer all sorts of ideas which would benefit the community and the local economy.

Conservative Councillor Andrew Gardiner had a novel suggestion. What the area really needed, he said, was a lap dancing club. Really. Kendal is doing great things in making a name for itself with fantastic initiatives like the Kendal Mountain Festival, which beat the Ashes to the British Tourist Event of 2013.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Phil Walker called on the Tories to take action against Cllr Gardiner:

 I cannot believe the suggestion that we should rely on the exploitation of women to regenerate Kendal.

The Liberal Democrats on SLDC are working on attracting investment, securing jobs and working with businesses on apprenticeships. In comparison here is a Conservative who wants lap dancing bars!

The Conservatives need to discipline Andrew, or admit that they support his idea of economic growth for Kendal through exploitation of women.

It’s not even as if there is a plan for a lap dancing club in the area. It’s just something that he thinks the area needs.

I was really proud of Willie Rennie for speaking out against a lap dancing club when it opened in Dunfermline in 2007. Thankfully, the venture was fairly short lived. This is what he said at the time:

The issue for me has always been about the image that we are trying to create in Dunfermline as being a modern, outward-looking city that is going to attract people who are moving into the eastern expansion,’ he said.

My primary concern was that this facility would detract from that.

My second issue concerned women in their 30s and 40s who had come to see me over their concerns about the mis-use of women and the image that it portrays.

‘There is the wider issue about how we view women in society and whether it is appropriate for them to be doing these kinds of activities.

It is strange that anyone would proactively suggest such a facility to improve a local community.  I’d be very unhappy if my council were to actively court such a facility to open in my home town.

UPDATE: John Tilley has found out a bit more about Cllr Gardiner. According to this North West Evening Mail article from last year, he’s fallen out of favour with the local Tories because of his failure as agent, to stop Tim Farron and the local councillors dominating the political scene.

Councillor Andrew Gardiner was the agent for Tory candidate Dr Ann Myatt, who will stand against Liberal Democrat Tim Farron for the Westmorland and Lonsdale seat in May 2015.

But Cllr Gardiner, who represents Grange North on South Lakeland District Council, has been dropped from the position.

The Evening Mail understands the Westmorland and Lonsdale Conservative Association removed him because he was not carrying out the role to their expectations.

Cllr Gardiner has been replaced by senior Urswick-based councillor, James Airey, who leads the Conservative opposition group on Cumbria County Council.

When contacted by the Evening Mail, Cllr Gardiner claimed the Tories needed a big shake-up at local level and believes the party’s only gain in last month’s SLDC elections was down to him.

The comment from the local Liberal Democrats was brilliant. I defy you to detect one tiny hint of schadenfreude in this:

It is awful to hear whenever someone loses their job, so we are sorry to hear about Andy Gardiner being removed from his role. However we were not that surprised.

“It seems like the local Tories are in disarray yet again. With only 11 months to go until the general election and after another set of awful local election results, they seem to be totally split and in chaos.

The Westmrland Liberal Democrats are not int he business of taking votes for granted, and have stepped up even their phenomenal work-rate, so local Tories need not think they’ll find any complacency.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Yes and the oldest occupation in the world,prostitution is on the rise to.I wonder if welfare reform is the success story in this area.

    Any job is better than none,no.

    IDS must be very,very proud of his achievements.

  • Max Wilkinson 25th Feb '15 - 4:45pm

    I think we could level many accusations at Iain Duncan Smith, but linking him to unsubstantiated claims of increases in lapdancing and prostitution might be a stretch.

  • I’m just astonished that there’s a Conservative councillor in Kendal ! !

    Was Tim napping?

  • David Allen 25th Feb '15 - 5:50pm

    What does this word whorephobia mean? I can understand “homophobia”, it means being nasty to homosexuals. But does “whorephobia” mean being nasty to whores, or nasty to the pimps who exploit whores, or just rather taking the attitude that stripping and mountain activities don’t go together well?

  • Eddie Sammon 25th Feb '15 - 6:07pm

    I agree with George Potter. If an area didn’t have one then I would be fine with opening one up. They can bring money into the area and keep it there due to stag parties. Sex workers are a minority and want us to stand up for them.

    Regardless, Phil Walker’s suggestion that he should be disciplined sounds over the top. Lots of professions involve exploitation, at least they get paid and there is security around.

  • Some Conservative councillors should be given as much exposure as possible —


  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Feb '15 - 7:20pm

    Good find, Mr Tilley. Think I’ll just edit that in to the main article, with credit to you, of course.

    @George: It’s sexist society where women aren’t treated as equals phobia. If women had equal life chances, these places wouldn’t be half as sleazy. These places just reinforce the sexism and misogyny that permeates our culture in my view.

  • David Evans 25th Feb '15 - 8:35pm

    crewegwyn asks a good question, but it is the headline that is incorrect. Cllr Gardiner is an SLDC councillor for Grange over Sands North, not Kendal.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 25th Feb '15 - 9:35pm

    @George: You probably know me well enough to realise that it’s not the women in these situations I have the problem with.

  • Martin Land 26th Feb '15 - 7:37am

    … But women all love The Full Monty?

  • Jayne Mansfield 26th Feb '15 - 9:01am

    Martin Land,
    You don’t seem to have grasped what the Full Monty is all about. Why did the men decide to be strippers and would that have been their first choice in life? What was their rationale for demeaning themselves in that way? The tragi-comedy made the women of my acquaintance cry, not laugh, at the despair portrayed.

  • Tony Greaves 26th Feb '15 - 11:13am

    Just to be pedantic, Cllr Gardiner is not a “Kendal Tory Councillor”. I think Tory Councillors in Kendal have been an extinct species for some time. Cllr Gardiner appears to represent Grange-over-Sands, and oddly (according to the South Lakeland website) seems to live across the bay in Morecambe.

    Tony Greaves

  • Max Wilkinson 26th Feb '15 - 3:06pm

    Would the characters in the Full Monty have necessarily worked in a steel works as their ‘first choice’ in life?

    I hasten to add that I don’t seek to decry any type of work.

  • David Evans 26th Feb '15 - 4:06pm

    Caron, Could you correct the headline please? Cllr Gardiner is not a Kendal Councillor. South Lakeland would be a perfectly accurate alternative.

  • Are the Lib Dems really as humourless and prudish a bunch as this kind of article (all too common) suggests?

    Reading the more balanced version below, I’d say Gardiner comes across pretty well :-


    In the mind of some Lib Dems, any man who enjoys looking at an attractive woman is “objectifying” her, and any woman who doesn’t mind being looked at is “demeaning” herself. What a dismal, dehumanising view of perfectly natural behaviour.

  • Philip Thomas 26th Feb '15 - 9:46pm

    @stuart: My understanding is that this would involve a commercial arrangement. While a man looking at an attractive woman might not be “objectifying her”, the odds of him doing so increase if he’s paying for the privilege.

    So, no, not natural, because money doesn’t occur naturally…

  • Ideally these places wouldn’t exist at all. But even if a full measure of liberty allows for the possibility that such places can exist, there’s still no excuse for a politician pushing for more of them.

  • @Philip
    Anything people choose to do is “natural”, whether commerce is involved or not. Do you think the scandalised Lakeland Lib Dems would be any more comfortable with the idea of a free lap dancing bar?

    There is far too much stigmatisation of those who work in the sexual entertainment industry, and it’s regrettable that Lib Dems join in with this sort of thing. The fact that it’s only female performers who come under this kind of scrutiny (as Martin alludes to, male stripping tends to be just treated as a big laugh) smacks of misogyny to me.

    I’ve never been to one of these clubs (and would be in deep trouble if I did), however I did once go to a “burlesque” show, which, as far as I could see, was just stripping but with high production values, a posh venue, and a magician to lend a greater air of respectability. The really odd thing was that there were more women than men there. As a rough breakdown, I’d say the audience was about 80% straight couples, 5% lesbian couples, and 15% hen parties. Everybody seemed to be having a great time. There’s no reason this kind of thing should not be more mainstream and accepted.

  • Stephen Hesketh 27th Feb '15 - 7:33am

    I agree David.
    I was once taken to one on business and felt decidedly uncomfortable with what I encountered.

  • Philip Thomas 27th Feb '15 - 8:33am

    @Stuart- fair enough, but if anything people choose to do is “natural” then the word is meaningless.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Feb '15 - 10:17am

    @ Max Wilkinson,

    Men from my background often wanted no more than to follow their fathers into the steel works, the pits or the docks. Call it limited aspiration if you will, but that is how things were.

    Whilst you might not decry any form of employment, many people do. The characters in the Full Monty were trying to raise funds to do something other than strip in front of women. It was not a career choice.

    Similarly, for women it is not always a career choice, it is sometimes the only way they can see their way to earn the money to feed their children and buy them shoes and presents for special occasions etc.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Feb '15 - 10:30am

    @ Stuart,
    I take issue with you claim that it is perfectly ‘natural’ behaviour. If something was ‘natural surely it would be universal, and this sort of behaviour is not.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Feb '15 - 10:39am

    @ Stuart,
    I forgot to thank you for the link. I certainly don’t think that the person who made the suggestion should be disciplined.

    The photograph of the woman trying to breathe life into the inert rod of steel was interesting. Is is a metaphor or something?

  • This really is a non-story! Unless Caron has not presented the full facts.

    “Councillors were free to offer all sorts of ideas which would benefit the community and the local economy.
    Conservative Councillor Andrew Gardiner had a novel suggestion.”

    Reading the first sentence it implies the council were offering a public brainstorming session. As any one who has facilitated such sessions, the rules are very simple: any idea is valid because the purpose of the session is to generate ideas on which to work, not to judge individual ideas. It is the purpose of subsequent stages that ideas are revisited and winnowed.

    So perhaps the Councillor was deliberately being provocative in putting their idea. Yes he has a ‘history’ but then when running a workshop, having people who can be relied on to be controversial can be very helpful in getting others to contribute. Hence the real question is what happened after the suggestion was made. Yes some may have been outraged, but more importantly did it cause people to be little more bold and contribute ideas they had but weren’t going to embarrass themselves by actually contributing them.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Feb '15 - 12:46pm

    @ Roland,
    I agree with you. This does seem to be a sort of brain-storming exercise where no idea is too ‘bonkers’ and throwing a bonkers idea into the hat can have a positive outcome in terms of getting more inhibited participants to relax and storm their own brains.

    The question is, did this brainstorming lead to the sort of winnowing of ideas that you speak of where people actually supported the idea in the following stages. I think that this is the central issue because there are clearly differences of opinion even on here.

    I wouldn’t judge a participant for raising the idea. In fact as a facilitator, I am sure that you warn people in advance that they must not mock or make fun or someone’s contribution during the brainstorming stage, but I would argue against the idea being taken further when the winnowing process was taking place.

  • Max Wilkinson 27th Feb '15 - 2:39pm


    I wouldn’t call it limited aspiration. I wouldn’t call it anything at all other than a person’s freedom to choose what job to apply for.

    Similarly, I wouldn’t discriminate against the choices of women who choose to be strippers or models of any kind.

  • Jayne Mansfield 27th Feb '15 - 3:48pm

    @ Max Wilkinson,
    A choice that is made because of dire financial necessity is no choice at all. I think one has to have had a very privileged life one thinks that everyone has jobs that are taken through real choice.

  • @Stephen Hesketh
    “I was once taken to one on business and felt decidedly uncomfortable with what I encountered.”

    I haven’t been to one of these clubs myself, but have no doubt that you are right.

    However, isn’t this at least partly because society has tended to react like the Lakeland Lib Dems – pushing this kind of entertainment into the dingy shadows by stigmatising it? As I described earlier in my post about the burlesque show I went to, when this kind of thing is put in to the mainstream, the quality of the clientele (and more importantly, treatment of the performers) improves massively.

  • Max Wilkinson 28th Feb '15 - 11:00am

    Is the choice to work at all made through dire financial necessity by those unlucky enough not to have family wealth?

    What is your view on jobs such as call centre work, cleaning and waiting tables? These are all jobs that society seems undesirable, but which seem perfectly worthy to me.

  • Max Wilkinson 28th Feb '15 - 11:02am

    Perhaps ‘valid’ is a better word than worthy.

    To be clear, I do not seek to promote lap dancing clubs. I do, however, defend the freedom for people to work in and patronise them.

  • Jayne Mansfield 28th Feb '15 - 1:30pm

    @ Max,
    I think that the jobs you mention are perfectly worthy. In fact I think that those who do them are worth considerably more than they are paid.

    What we are talking about with lap dancing, is a job where the evidence shows that the most of workers have felt exploited by the management, other employees and also the customers. Although the research is difficult to analyse because there are different types of lap dancing club and they are international, that is the conclusion that I have reached from evidence that I have read. The women get verbal abuse, they get objects thrown at them including ice cubeset., they get their breast and bottoms squeezed.

    This brings me on to another point. Whether lap dancing clubs have an effect on women as a whole rather than the individuals working within them. Lap dancing clubs are about the commofdification of sex. Some of the punters deserve pity because they actually believe that they have some sort of relationship with certain of the girls. Nothing could be further from the truth. The girls do what they do and behave in the way they do for one reason- money.

    Lap dancing is part of the sex industry and if you think that this, pornography and other aspects of the sex industry do not impact on young people particularly young girls, there is plenty of evidence out there to disabuse you. Young girls and women are now feeling under pressure to act out what young boys and men expect of them – without payment and against their better judgement.

    I don’t see that we will ever agree on this. If you think that lap dancing clubs add to the sum of human happiness, that is your opinion. What I do know that it is not my daughters or my friends daughters who would choose a form of work where they are so clearly exploited, but that does not alter the fact that it concerns me that there are other peoples’ daughters who are, and that there are other peoples daughters who do not have the self confidence and self assurance to tell boys who are developing a warped view of sexual relationships where they demand practices that girls do not feel comfortable with, and the pleasure is one sided, to ‘get lost’.

  • Max Wilkinson 1st Mar '15 - 9:18am

    @ Jayne

    Please post the evidence to back your claims above. I would be interested to read it.

    Do you think that making the sex industry illegal is likely to make it go away? Is it better to have these activities taking place I regulated premises known to the authorities, or unregulated premises unknown to the authorities?

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