CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Tory election candidate suffering from depression says he was forced off ballot paper

Hamish Hunter files official complaint with Hampstead and Kilburn branch of Conservative Party

26 July, 2018 — By Richard Osley

A FORMER Conservative election candidate has filed an official complaint with the party after claiming he was deselected against his will just weeks from polling day.

Hamish Hunter, who in recent months has talked openly about his struggles with depression, is understood to have written directly to local association chairwoman Kirsty Roberts, asking her to investigate the handling of his candidacy in Hampstead Town ward.

He was replaced on the ballot paper by Maria Higson ahead of May’s council elections, which saw the Tories win all three seats in one of their safest wards. Mr Hunter had been a long-term candidate, and his departure was explain­ed at the time as being down to “personal issues” unrelated to politics.

Rather than voluntarily stepping away from the race, however, Mr Hunter says he was forced to quit, claiming that in a brief telephone call he was told: “It’s over?” “What is?” “You, in Hampstead Town.” The case is being dealt with behind closed doors with only a small number of organisers having seen the text of Mr Hunter’s letter of complaint.

Depending on how the party handles the complaint, an investigation into his claims could lead to private incidents and exchanges which unfolded behind the scenes in the lead-up to the local authority elections being revisited, and those involved being asked to provide their own version of events.

It is understood some of Mr Hunter’s claims will be disputed in some quarters with the view they acted in the best interests of both the candidate and the party.

Mr Hunter would not expand on his complaint when contacted by the New Journal, apart from saying he was pursuing the issue because he “didn’t want it to happen to anyone else”. He has said previously on social media that the party’s action worsened his mental health. “They forced me to resign my candidacy because they had decided that was the best thing for me. It wasn’t. I said so vehemently,” he said. “They did it anyway and completely shut the door on me. My mental health deteriorated to a critical state.”

Mr Hunter, who says he was later cropped out of campaign photographs, said: “I’m angry that these decisions in my ‘best interests’ were taken unasked, and in the face of my strongest opposition. I didn’t ask for intercession. I literally begged them not to.”

After choosing council candidates more than a year in advance of the elections – a boroughwide ballot which saw the party reduced to seven councillors in Camden – the party lost more than 10 of them for different personal reasons. Prominent local campaigners are reportedly split on whether the right course of action was taken, with Mr Hunter retaining support among some former campaign colleagues.

He received a slew of messages of support for candid tweeting about his mental health problems in May, when he revealed his difficulties with depression and loneliness.

The Camden Conservative Party said it could not comment on internal matters.

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