Candidate calamities: who has incited the biggest controversy?

Rowena Mason Deputy political editor
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Candidate calamities: who has incited the biggest controversy?

The major parties have been dogged by controversies about their candidates before nomination papers have even been submitted. Allegations of racism and sexism have abounded, leading to several to withdraw and/or apologise. Others have been the subject of rows over their selection or accusations of cronyism. As the final list of candidates prepare to hand in their papers by 4pm on Thursday, these are the biggest furores so far:

Conservative party

Nick Conrad
Conrad, selected for the safe Norfolk seat of Broadland, swiftly withdrew after a storm over his comments about rape was reignited. Boris Johnson criticised his remarks from 2014 saying women should keep their “knickers on” to avoid rape, leading the 34-year-old former radio presenter to pull out of the race.

Antony Calvert
Calvert withdrew from the race for Wakefield, a key Tory target seat, after a number of offensive social media posts came to light. In one, he referred to London as “Londonistan”; in another he said one of his reasons for seeking public office was exposing ludicrous claims about “food poverty”; in a third he criticised the appearance of his opponent Mary Creagh, saying he could not believe “just how shocking” she looked on TV. Calvert was previously ridiculed in the 2017 election for suggesting people should not consider themselves working class if they went to Costa Coffee.

Related: Tory candidate faces calls to quit over 'disgusting racism'

Anthony Browne
Browne is still a candidate in South Cambridgeshire despite Labour’s calls for him to withdraw over some of his writings that blamed immigrants for bringing germs and HIV to the UK and accused Muslims of having divided loyalties. The prime minister’s former policy director has previously apologised for the comments in Spectator articles in 2002 and 2003 – when Johnson was the magazine’s editor – and the Conservatives said they were more than 15 years old. But Labour called on the prime minister to intervene to stop Browne contesting the seat, saying the articles were “shocking” and “despicable”.


Alistair Burt North East Bedfordshire; Keith Simpson Broadland; Nicholas Soames Mid Sussex; Michael Fallon Sevenoaks; Nick Hurd Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner; Jo Johnson Orpington; Caroline Spelman Meriden; Claire Perry Devizes; Richard Benyon Newbury; David Jones Clwyd West; Mark Prisk Hertford and Stortford; Bill Grant Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock; Hugo Swire East Devon; Jeremy LeFroy Stafford; David Tredinnick Bosworth; Glyn Davies Montgomeryshire; Mark Field Cities of London and Westminster; Seema Kennedy South Ribble; Sarah Newton Truro and Falmouth; Richard Harrington Watford; David Lidington Aylesbury; Patrick McLoughlin Derbyshire Dales; Alan Duncan Rutland and Melton; Peter Heaton-Jones North Devon; Nicky Morgan Loughborough; Margot James Stourbridge; Mark Lancaster Milton Keynes North; Ross Thomson Aberdeen South; Henry Bellingham North West Norfolk; Nick Herbert Arundel and South Downs; Ed Vaizey Wantage; George Hollingbery Meon Valley; Charlie Elphicke Dover; David Jones Clwyd West


Kevin Barron Rother Valley; Paul Farrelly Newcastle-under-Lyme; John Mann Bassetlaw; Kate Hoey Vauxhall; Teresa Pearce Erith and Thamesmead; Stephen Pound Ealing North; Geoffrey Robinson Coventry North West; Stephen Twigg Liverpool West Derby; Jim Cunningham Coventry South; Ian Lucas Wrexham; Albert Owen Ynys Môn; Roberta Blackman-Woods City of Durham; Gloria De Piero Ashfield; Ronnie Campbell Blyth Valley; Jim Fitzpatrick Poplar and Limehouse; Ann Clwyd Cynon Valley; Owen Smith Pontypridd; Adrian Bailey West Bromwich West; Helen Jones Warrington North; Tom Watson West Bromwich East


Philip Hammond* Runnymede and Weybridge; Justine Greening* Putney; Rory Stewart* Penrith and the Border; Guto Bebb* Aberconwy; Oliver Letwin* West Dorset; Ken Clarke* Rushcliffe; Jared O'Mara** Sheffield Hallam; Louise Ellman** Liverpool Riverside; Amber Rudd* Hastings and Rye; John Woodcock** Barrow and Furness; Kelvin Hopkins** Luton North; Ian Austin** Dudley North; Sylvia Hermon North Down; Nick Boles* Grantham and Stamford

Liberal Democrats

Heidi Allen*** South Cambridgeshire; Sir Vince Cable Twickenham; Norman Lamb North Norfolk 

Independent Group for Change

Ann Coffey Stockport; Joan Ryan Enfield North  

Democratic Unionist Party

David Simpson Upper Bann


John Bercow Buckingham

* Formally Conservative party 
** Formally Labour party
*** Originally elected as a Conservative

Francesca O’Brien
O’Brien, a Tory candidate in the marginal seat of Gower, wrote on social media that people on the reality TV programme Benefits Street needed “putting down”, and apparently endorsed a friend’s suggestion for “twat a tramp Tuesday”. The Conservatives refused calls to drop her, despite anger over her now-deleted social media posts. Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, said the issue of whether O’Brien should be the constituency’s next MP was a “matter for the people of Gower”.

Related: Tories back candidate who said benefits claimants should be 'put down'

Andrew Griffiths
Griffiths was forced to resign as a minister last year for sending 2,000 sexually explicit messages to two female constituents, which he blamed on mental health issues. An outcry followed the news he was seeking reelection in Burton. After his local association refused to back him, Theresa May’s former chief of staff was about to go through a new selection process, but in a surprising twist, he withdrew and offered his backing to his estranged wife who, it emerged, was challenging him for the nomination. Kate Griffiths was duly selected and later said she had not sought and did not want her husband’s endorsement, while pledging to support victims of domestic abuse.


Ian Byrne
The controversial Labour councillorhas been allowed to stand as the party’s general election candidate in Liverpool despite a row over “unacceptable” and “sexist” posts he made on social media aimed at public figures, including the businesswoman Michelle Mone, the former Tory minister Esther McVey and Prince William. He has also been accused of appearing to make light of domestic violence against women online after Everton lost an FA Cup match 3-0 to Wigan. Byrne has apologised for making and sharing “unacceptable” social media posts. He said he was a “very different person now”.

Kate Osborne
Osborne was forced to apologise after it emerged she shared an image of the former Conservative prime minister Theresa May with a gun pointed at her head and admitted that posting the image had “caused offence”. However, she remains in the running for the safe Labour seat of Jarrow, despite 27 fellow candidates asking the party’s ruling national executive committee to reconsider.

Zarah Sultana
Sultana, who is standing for Labour in Coventry South, apologised for saying she would celebrate the deaths of world leaders including Tony Blair and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and has been allowed to continue as a candidate. She said she had been “exasperated by endless cycles of global suffering, violence and needless killing”. Sultana also wrote of her support for “violent resistance” by Palestinians in 2015. She told the BBC the tweets were from a “deleted account dating back several years from when I was a student”, and added: “I do not support violence and I should not have articulated my anger in the manner I did, for which I apologise.”

Kate Ramsden
Ramsden, the Labour candidate for Gordon in Aberdeenshire, stood down after being put under investigation for a blogpost that compared Israel to “an abused child who becomes an abusive adult”. Labour said the party had uncovered the post and then asked her to re-interview, but the details emerged in the Jewish Chronicle before she was reassessed. Ramsden then said she was standing down as a candidate for “personal reasons”.

Gideon Bull
Bull withdrew as a candidate for Clacton in Essex after accusations that he used the insulting term “Shylock” at a meeting where a Jewish councillor was present. The councillor from the London borough of Haringey allegedly referred in July to the Shakespearean Jewish character best known for demanding a pound of flesh for an unpaid loan. Bull denied any intention to insult but has apologised for making the remark.

Liberal Democrats

Kevin McNamara
McNamara stood down as Lib Dem candidate for Thurrock very swiftly on Monday after the emergence of screenshots from a private Twitter account showing racist and homophobic slurs, including the N-word. He acknowledged his words were “deeply offensive” comments and said he apologised profusely to everybody offended. The party has launched an investigation.