Tory election candidate stands down over rape comments

2 weeks ago
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A Conservative candidate who said women should “keep their knickers on” to avoid rape has stood down.

Nick Conrad was selected by the party for the Norfolk seat of Broadland on Tuesday.

But the news drew renewed focus on comments he made during a radio phone-in in 2014, during his time as a BBC presenter, and sparked immediate calls for his selection to be reversed.

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Boris Johnson earlier described the remarks as “completely unacceptable”, adding: “He has apologised long ago, but I can’t stress that those comments are completely unacceptable.”

The prime minister did not comment on whether Mr Conrad should remain as a Tory candidate.

However, he has now made the decision to stand aside.

“Five years ago I made ill-judged comments during an on-air radio discussion for which I made a genuine and heartfelt apology,” Mr Conrad said in a statement.

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“Last night I was honoured to be made the Conservative candidate for Broadland and had hoped to become the MP for a constituency which is close to my heart.

“However it has become clear to me that the media attention on my previous comments have become a distraction.

“For me, the most important thing is for the Conservative Party to be successful in the forthcoming election – getting Brexit done and delivering on the people’s priorities.

“This is why I have reluctantly concluded I must stand down to allow one of the other excellent candidates the opportunity to win this fantastic seat.”

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Mr Conrad, a former radio host, made the comments during a debate about footballer Ched Evans.

It followed the ex-Sheffield United striker’s release from prison after his rape conviction, which was subsequently overturned on appeal.

In on-air comments that were condemned by campaigners, Mr Conrad said on BBC Radio Norfolk: “I think women need to be more aware of a man’s sexual desire… and it’s very difficult for many men to say no when they are whipped up into a bit of a storm.”

He added: “If you jump into bed naked with a man, if you give him all the signals and then he acts upon them, then you are partially responsible.

“If you don’t wish to give out the wrong signals it’s best probably to keep your knickers on and not get into bed with him.”

Mr Conrad later made an on-air apology for his “ill-judged” remarks, which attracted complaints to watchdog Ofcom.

The media watchdog said his comments “were offensive” and “not justified by the context of the show”, but the BBC had taken steps to limit the offence.

Responding to the resignation, Labour’s Angela Rayne said: “The fact that he was chosen in the first place and the fact that Boris Johnson stood by him is further proof that the party is infected with sexism from top to bottom.

“Nick Conrad’s views should be consigned to the dustbin of history. They have no place in the 21st century, let alone in parliament.”

Ben Goodwin, the Liberal Democrat candidate in Broadland, said Mr Conrad’s past comments were “indefensible”.

He added: “This is exactly the kind of chaos we have come to expect from the Conservative Party. The fact that Nick Conrad was overwhelmingly selected shows how thin the party benches must be. Ultimately any Conservative candidate just represents more of the same for Broadland. I look forward to facing the next one.”

The Broadland seat was won by Conservative candidate Keith Simpson at the 2017 general election with a majority of more than 15,000 votes.

Mr Simpson, who had been an MP since 1997, announced in September that he would not seek re-election.

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