North Devon Lib Dem candidate resigns after ‘race row’ interview

Dr Kirsten Johnson has resigned as North Devon Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate.

Dr Kirsten Johnson has resigned as North Devon Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate. - Credit: Archant

North Devon’s Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate has resigned following a ‘race row’ radio interview.

Dr Kirsten Johnson announced this morning (Thursday, September 19) that she was stepping down 'with the deepest regret' as her party's candidate for the North Devon parliamentary seat.

It follows furore over an interview she gave on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend show on Sunday, September 16.

In her statement today, Dr Johnson said: "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."

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The interview with Ross Hawkins saw Dr Johnson asked about North Devon being an area that voted to leave the EU.

She said: "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."

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She then referred to the rise of hate crimes and was asked if she linked leave voters to hate crime.

She responded: "No I do not link all leave voters to hate crime, not at all, I need to make that absolutely clear."

Her statement today continued: "Since my election as PPC for the North Devon Lib Dems over a year ago, I have been out in the community, working hard and meeting with fantastic people, getting to know them and listening to their hopes and their concerns.

"These worries include the mass under-funding of our hospitals and local schools; the lack of affordable, high quality social care; the lack of broader job opportunities for their children; the need for better infrastructure for all the housing developments being built; the challenges for farming and businesses; as well as the need to address the real difficulties facing North Devon families on low incomes.

"There are many issues facing the people of North Devon, which is why I wanted to make a difference and help to stop North Devon being neglected by central government.

"I am not a career politician, and entered politics due to my concern over poor mental health provision and the many inequalities evident in our society. I will continue to work on these issues which are close to my heart.

"I want to conclude by thanking everyone who has supported me over the past year and half, and say how sincerely sorry I am not to be standing for the chance to take forward the interests of all the people of North Devon to central Government."

Sensitive issue

Dawn Westcott, the North Devon PPC for The Brexit Party, said she wished Dr Johnson well in whatever she decided to do next, but added: "The matter of ethnicity is a sensitive issue in North Devon, particularly following Liberal Democrat MEP Caroline Voaden's recent comments on Twitter, including the tweet, "Have you been to Devon recently? Population is 95% white, That is the reality here. One of the things I miss most about my 18 years in Camden is the ethnic mix.

"One of the reasons I decided to stand as a PPC for The Brexit Party is to endeavour to ensure the voices of the woefully forgotten UK regions - and in my case - North Devon and Exmoor - are heard and represented clearly and authentically in Westminster."


North Devon Labour Party chairman Mark Cann said: "That she felt the need to resign just underlines how offensive her remarks were to the people of North Devon.

"This is just one more harmful incident from both the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in North Devon which makes it absolutely clear that North Devon has been poorly served by its representatives in Parliament for far too long.

"Now is the time for substantial and meaningful change in North Devon. For too long we have been ignored and marginalised by MPs shipped into the area because we are a 'target seat' for either the Tories or Lib Dems.

"The coming elections are an opportunity to vote for something different; an opportunity to vote for a true end to austerity, for more investment in public services, for an effective green strategy, a vote for British industry and a final say on Brexit."

LISTEN to Dr Johnson's Radio 4 interview and decide for yourself .

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