Edward De Mesquita, although originally selected in West Hampstead, has decided not to stand after all, with a group organiser saying: “He felt he could help the Conservative Party in other ways”.
Mr De Mesquita, who runs the supremely popular crepe stand in Hampstead High Street, had gone into his campaign with such gusto that on day one of media interviews he stumbled into a retweet frenzy after decrying why people on the doorsteps were telling him that they thought the Tories were somehow racist.
It should be said – before any misguided claims of hatcheting – that the Camden New Journal had not asked him about race and that he had brought up that sensitive subject himself because he wanted to set the record straight on the accusation he had come across on the knocker. Quotes were double checked with him before being pressed.
Not all of the comments went down well. This one for example: “Many of the racists in this area are old people or less privileged people. How could I be racist? I have a Chinese girlfriend. Most of the girlfriends I’ve had have been very international. I tend to go for non-white women. So when I go out door knocking and people tell me the Conservatives are racists, I could say: ‘No, now come on, I have a Chinese girlfriend.” It all became national diary page fodder. He was castigated in a well-read opinion piece filed on the Guardian’s website.
It became one of those news stories that starts off small, gets shared a lot across the internet, provokes anger and incredulity before an apology is an offered and then some people begin feeling the person being set upon has taken a disproportionate pummelling, particularly for a council election.
Mr De Mesquita was certainly right when he later described his comments as clumsy. “I can really see that the words that I used weren’t the right ones,” he said. “As a crepe stall owner, I am perhaps not in the normal run of media-savvy candidates.”
That’s an interesting postscript though, whatever you think of his politics and views, especially if media-savvy translates as politicians shielding or toning down what they really think, in preference for dull soundbites, the conviction of which may become harder and harder to test. Surely, we want candidates to tell us what they really think and in a way that comes natural to them. Then the public can be the judge those views in the best way we know how, the ballot box in three months time.