Former Kettering general election hopeful hits out at 'intolerable' abuse about his stammer

He’s withdrawn from the running to be the next Liberal Democrat candidate
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A two-time general election candidate in Kettering says he won’t stand again because of ‘intolerable’ abuse about his stammer.

Chris Nelson was the Liberal Democrats’ choice in his home town when the nation went to the polls in 2010 and in 2019, coming third both times.

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But he will not be on the ballot paper at the next election, widely expected to be later this year, and has hit out at those who have mocked his speech.

Chris Nelson of the Liberal Democrats, speaking at hustings in 2019Chris Nelson of the Liberal Democrats, speaking at hustings in 2019
Chris Nelson of the Liberal Democrats, speaking at hustings in 2019

In a statement today (Wednesday) he said: “The abuse that I have endured has proved intolerable – even if I must acknowledge it to be but a fraction of that weathered by women and ethnic minority candidates.

"Whether aimed directly at my stammer, or the simple abuse of the playground bully, I have been physically squared up to on the doorstep, verbally abused and physically chased on the street, had audio recordings of radio broadcasts used to mock my speech online, witnessed ordinary voters fantasise about hanging me from a lamppost, as well as writing to my employer to demand that I be sacked.

"From other politicians, too, I have either witnessed or been informed of cruel personal jokes, mocking of my speech, seen my disability described as “an embarrassment”, and was notably informed of one politician who used an election count to gleefully ask a colleague “how’s C-C-C-C-C-Chris doing?”

"Such abuse is not only puerile, it is made with impunity.”

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Mr Nelson said the final straw came last year when a politician – who he has not named – abused his stammer in the street. He said it was reported to police as a disability-related hate incident.

The Liberal Democrat said he was honoured to be first selected in 2010 as one of only a handful of people with an openly audible stammer to have stood for Parliament in the modern era.

He was expecting robust debate – but said he was not prepared for the personal abuse which would follow.

Mr Nelson said: “Whilst abuse is only ever done by a minority, the decent majority continues to fail in challenging and calling it out. Stammering remains the disability that it is politically acceptable to mock and belittle, and I refuse to be a part of it.

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“This June my family will commemorate the 80th anniversary of the liberation of Normandy, where my grandfather Arthur Nelson fought bravely, and was scarred for life by this experience. When thinking of him I am forced to notice he was sent there by a stammering Prime Minister, appointed by a stammering King, commanded by a general appointed by a physically-disabled US president. Eighty years later, such tolerance and respect seems almost unthinkable.

“I remain grateful for the support of my political party and call on all political parties – and all members of society – to do more to challenge the torrent of abuse we are tolerating...if we do not do more to protect the people that make our political process work, it is democracy that will pay the price.”