Back in September last year, I wrote about Chippenham Tory candidate Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones and specifically about his claim that the Lib Dems’ criticism of him not being local had racist undertones (declaration: his rival Duncan Hames is a friend of mine).
I suggested that this was a case of the Tories getting their excuses in early. All the local indications suggested that Chippenham, notionally Lib Dem, was going to stay Lib Dem, and that the “not local” card would have been played just as strongly regardless of his race. And so it proved to be.
It is a shame that Emmanuel-Jones is now choosing to continue with this line of attack, especially given the fact that he spent the election campaign making a big issue out of the fact that Hames himself was not local. But he spectacularly missed the point. Hames was not local in the sense that he was not born in the constituency and had lived elsewhere. That he had lived in the constituency since 2002 and contested the last election in one of its predecessor constituencies was not in doubt. Even his business was called Chippenham Consultants (and had been established before the constituency even existed).
By contrast, the criticisms of Emmanuel-Jones were that he didn’t live locally and that his business and family home were located in Devon. He was the very definition of a candidate who had a vested interest elsewhere. If his opponent had not raised questions about that, they would have been utterly foolish, regardless of skin colour. Either Emmanuel-Jones doesn’t want special favours on account of his race or he does; which is it?
I’m really sorry that even now Emmanuel-Jones still doesn’t see that this is a perfectly valid concern for a potential constituent to have. Even then, he didn’t exactly get wiped out. In fact, he actually increased his share of the vote. The bizarre thing about this racism claim is that, unfortunately, it suggests more than a little sense of entitlement. It is one thing to suggest that Conservative supporters didn’t vote for him because of his skin colour (in fact they did); it is quite another to suggest that Lib Dem and Labour supporters are racist for not voting for him.
I feel sorry for Emmanuel-Jones. Under any fair electoral system, he would be an MP right now I have no doubt. But accusations of racism without foundation are simply smears. I hope that in time he will come to regret making them.