A UKIP member has come under fire for saying a parliamentary candidate was only picked due to her race and gender.
In a letter to The News, printed below, Fareham and Gosport membership secretary for Ukip Tom Davies said he was ‘saddened’ to think that Suella Fernandes had been picked by the Tories ‘probably down to gender and ethnicity rather than her actual abilities’.
But his comments have provoked a fierce reaction from Conservative members, who say that Ms Fernandes was the best person for the job as prospective parliamentary candidate for Fareham. And Ms Fernandes has hit out, too.
The 34-year-old is a barrister who was born in London – her mother is originally from Mauritius and her father is from Kenya.
She says she is ‘deeply proud’ to be British, that she intends to move to Fareham and that she had been spending lots of time in the constituency.
Speaking yesterday in Fareham, she said: ‘The whole race, gender and age thing is something that I cannot help.
‘Our party is about merit and that is why I am a Conservative.
‘Work hard and do a good job and the best person will go through – that has been my experience over the years.’
Departing Fareham MP Mark Hoban defended Ms Fernandes’s selection.
He said: ‘It’s absurd. Suella was demonstrably the best person for the job.
The whole race, gender and age thing is something that I cannot help. Our party is about merit and that is why I am a ConservativeSuella Fernandes
‘She won the selection in the first round, which demonstrates the confidence that the local association has in her. Suella will do a great job representing Fareham.’
Ms Fernandes was picked by the Conservatives on Saturday at a hustings.
She was one of four in the final selection, which also included Donna Jones, Portsmouth’s council leader.
Cllr Jones said: ‘The comments are deeply offensive. Both Suella and I were in the final selection because of our abilities, not because we are women.
‘Ethnicity is completely irrelevant in her ability to serve the people of Fareham.’
Mr Davies, who failed in his bid to get elected to the borough council in Portchester West last May, said that his point was not about race or gender but it was about the selection of a candidate that he felt did not have Fareham’s interests at heart.
He said: ‘You should want to be an MP to serve the people of your constituency not because you want a career in Westminster.’
The 22-year-old said he felt other parties were selecting candidates due to their race and gender, which he disagreed with.
He said: ‘It should be on their merits and who is best for the job.’
John Bowles, Ukip’s Fareham and Gosport branch chairman, said his party was critical of Ms Fernandes being ‘parachuted in’ as they felt she could not represent Fareham properly due to her lack of local experience.
Mr Bowles said that Mr Davies was only asking a question about whether Ms Fernandes was the best person for the job – and scrutinising why the Conservatives did not have anybody else suitable in the area.
Mr Bowles said: ‘It’s a sad day when somebody in this country cannot say what they think without being branded as something.’
He added that no political party should be placing somebody due to their race or gender.
He said: ‘It should be the best person for the job, whether they are black, white or a one-legged lesbian with 10 kids.’
The letter written by Ukip’s Tom Davies to The News
‘Call me biased but this makes me angry.
‘What does this woman have to do with Fareham or our residents? She is an Oxbridge graduate barrister from London. She has nothing to do with us.
‘About as much in common with the average Fareham voter as squirrel.
‘For all our faults at least Ukip has put forward a local candidate, with strong local connections and long-term knowledge of and involvement in the area.
‘Suella has been parachuted in to a safe seat, I bet that two months ago she didn’t even know where Fareham was.
‘How is she meant to understand the people here and the problems? She can’t possibly.
‘It’s doubly sad to think she’s probably been chosen down to gender and ethnicity rather than her actual abilities.
‘For anyone who’s interested she stood to be the MP for Bexhill and Battle in Sussex only as far back as December but was placed third because she wasn’t good enough.
‘Her allies then kicked up a stink about her being handicapped for the aforementioned reasons. And now she’s going to be Fareham’s MP because of it.
‘David Cameron actually commented on the situation and said that she was not selected because she hadn’t a clue about local issues.
‘It’s plainly obvious to see she wants to be an MP to be a part of the Westminster bubble and elite and not because she cares about her local area. A quick Google of her name will reveal she will stand wherever, she doesn’t care about the area, that’s not important to her.
‘She was previously a candidate for Leicester East, in for selection in Havant and finalist for Uxbridge, Croydon South, Braintree, Bexhill and Battle constituencies.
‘The London barrister who’s stood in Leicester and wanted to be MP in Uxbridge, Bexhill and Battle, Braintree and Croydon South is now in all likelihood going to be MP for Fareham.
‘Do the Conservatives even listen to the general public? We’ve been calling for a strong local candidate ever since Mr Hoban announced he wasn’t seeking re-election.
‘Someone who would be focused on the constituency and making it as nice a place as possible and not someone who would spend all their time in London.
‘I can’t help but feel that this is a let down of democracy and the system we have.
‘In such safe seats why is it only the local Conservative association which picks the MP?
‘I dare say if the general public had a say in this Suella Fernandes wouldn’t even get a look in.
‘Why can’t we have politicians who know about and care about our area? Is it really any wonder people are completely and utterly alienated with politics?’