Would-be Tory councillor David Van Day is facing calls to step down as an election hopeful after making an offensive joke about gay men at a gala charity dinner.

Mr Van Day, 50, told guests a gay choir invited to sing at the event would "bend over backwards for anybody" but that he did not want to be "behind them at the time".

Gay community leaders have condemned his remarks at a Valentine's dinner hosted by Brighton and Hove mayor David Smith at the Royal Pavilion.

But a defiant Mr Van Day told The Argus: "It's sad that some people are being so sensitive over what is a joke. Are they offended by Four Poofs and a Piano, Jonathan Ross's band?

"People make jokes about my height everyday and if I was as sensitive as these people acted I would go and live under a stone."

Brighton and Hove Conservatives were rocked by a homophobia scandal after former city councillor Peter Willows was convicted over the way he likened gays to paedophiles.

But the council's Tory group last night stood by Mr Van Day and insisted he would remain its candidate for the East Brighton ward in May's local elections.

Mr Van Day said: "I have probably done every Gay Pride there is in the UK and any inference about being homophobic is absolutely quite ridiculous. I was told these jokes by gay people.

I'm very angry about this.

"What about all the mother-in- law jokes or my wife' jokes?

If people are so sensitive and can't laugh at their own sexuality it's a sad indictment on that person.

"Where does it all stop? Will there be no laughter?"

Mr Van Day - born David Paul Day - was part of the pop duo Dollar in the Eighties before a stint with Bucks Fizz in 1996.

Josh Mills, 32, the lead trustee of Brighton Pride, heard Mr Van Day's joke, aimed at the Brighton and Hove Actually Gay Men's Chorus.

He said: "It came across as being very Eighties school yard humour."

David Harvey, owner of gay magazine 3SIXTY, who lives in the East Brighton ward, said: "If he comes out with such rubbish I wouldn't want him representing me and my neighbours."

Conservative group leader Brian Oxley said: "David has now apologised and we regard the matter as closed."

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