There are plenty of ways to go about winning an election if you’re fighting to become an MP, from coming up with a winning electoral strategy, to tapping into a burning local issue. The one thing you probably shouldn’t do though is start off by insulting your local constituents.
The North Devon Liberal Democrat candidate Kirsten Johnson learned that the hard way this lunchtime when she appeared on Radio 4’s World at One. Asked by the presenter why Leave was so popular in her local area in 2016, Johnson began the interview by suggesting that North Devon voted to Leave because no ethnic minorities lived there, and her constituents didn’t travel very much:
‘Demographically it’s 98 per cent white. We don’t have a lot of ethnic minorities living in North Devon. People aren’t exposed to people from other countries. They don’t travel a lot…’
Unfortunately the interview didn’t get much better from there. Johnson was asked by the presenter what the number of ethnic minority voters in her constituency had to do with the Brexit vote. A flustered Johnson replied that:
‘I didn’t mean to mean that it has anything to do with it all. I was just saying that when I speak to people I am hearing comments to me, it refers to race. You’ve got me in a corner here.
Oops. Pressed again on the subject, the Liberal Democrat candidate added that:
‘I think my concern is the rise of hate crimes, and the rise of people not being able to accept otherness.’
Before being forced to add:
‘No, I do not link all Leave voters to hate crime, not at all. I need to make that absolutely clear…’
Finally, asked what the connection was between voting Leave and wanting to be out of the European Union and hate crime, Johnson replied:
‘I’m saying that because of the um…’
And left her answer there – which might have been for the best, considering how badly the interview was going so far.
Listen to the excruciating interview here:
UPDATE: Kirsten Johnson has resigned as the Liberal Democrat candidate for North Devon. In a Facebook post, Johnson apologised for her remarks and said that:
‘I am acutely aware that my comments in the recent Radio 4 interview caused offence, and I reiterate my sincere apologies. Whilst I have had many very good interviews, on this occasion I totally lost the thread of what I was saying, which was interpreted in ways that I certainly did not intend or believe about the people of North Devon.’