Disabled election candidate for Tynemouth speaks out on abuse branding her 'not fit to be an MP'

Green candidate for Tynemouth, Chloe-Louise Reilly
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

A disabled election candidate in the North East has spoken out over the “really difficult” abuse she has received during her campaign.

Chloe-Louise Reilly, Green Party candidate for the Tynemouth constituency, says she has been subjected to hateful comments both in person and on social media that have branded her unfit to be an MP because she uses a wheelchair. The 23-year-old told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that she had found the experience “very isolating” and that it had compounded the day-to-day difficulties she had in campaigning ahead of the July 4 election.

She explained: “I have had a few comments from people saying I am not fit for office because I am in a wheelchair and they would never elect a disabled person. That has been really difficult for me.

“The two times someone has said that to my face I have just turned around and said that you don’t need to be an athlete to be in Parliament. I don’t think people are very well educated on disability.”

Ms Reilly described one incident where an online commenter threatened to burn her campaign posters. She added: “It is overwhelming. It has been one of the most negative parts of this for me and it becomes very isolating.

“Being a disabled candidate is very isolating already. You are already trying to deal with having to do things by yourself, but then you have to deal with all these comments and try not to think about them in your brain while you are going around campaigning.”

Ms Reilly is an ambulatory wheelchair user, meaning she can sometimes walk, and lives with a variety of conditions – including postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS), fibromyalgia, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), autism and degenerative disk disease. She told the LDRS that she had wanted to become an MP since she was a small child and felt inspired to stand at this summer’s election, but feels that disability issues are often “forgotten” and are “massively under-represented” in the political discourse.

She added: “[Using a wheelchair] really affects the way you campaign. I have had to host events and ask people to come to me, rather than door-knocking and canvassing. There are lots of people who tell me that they’ve not had a knock on their door – but that is because I can’t get up their path.

“Just getting out and about is really difficult. I have to think really carefully about where I can get to and how I can get there, because buses are barely accessible. I am reliant on my mum for transport.”

Ms Reilly pulled out of a hustings organised by Kings Priory School this week and had worried that the school, where she herself was once a pupil, would not be able to accommodate her accessibility needs.

School vice principal, Brian Nelis, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the school believed the reason for her absence was illness, that the school is wheelchair accessible, and that appropriate access could have been ensured to allow the Green candidate to take part in the hustings. Ms Reilly agreed that there had been a “bit of miscommunication” about the arrangements.