East Worthing and Shoreham: Parliamentary candidate says she is stepping down following ‘abuse and harassment’

Sophie Cook at Chichester's first ever LGBT+ Pride event. Photo: Steve Robards
Sophie Cook at Chichester's first ever LGBT+ Pride event. Photo: Steve Robards

One of the candidates vying to be East Worthing and Shoreham’s next MP at the general election is stepping down, according to a statement on her website.

Sophie Cook, a writer, speaker, activist and broadcaster, was announced as an independent parliamentary candidate on Thursday last week – see the full list of people standing here.

But on Monday, she posted a statement on her website announcing she was stepping down, explaining that the ‘abuse and harassment’ she had been subjected to was beginning to affect her mental health.

However the council said her name would remain on the ballot paper because her notification of intention to withdraw was submitted after the November 14 deadline.

Ms Cook said in the statement on her website: “I, like many, felt that politics and politicians didn’t speak for me so I tried to change that, first in the Labour Party and then as an independent candidate.

“I stood to try to make a difference, to give constituents a positive alternative. Not the anti-this or stop-that vote but an opportunity to actually vote for something that they believed in for a change.

“Away from politics I spend my time helping people, by speaking out about mental health, prejudice and hate crime.

“I know from the feedback that I receive for this work that I am making a difference to people’s lives.

“Since I announced my candidacy at this election I have been subjected to abuse and harassment to such an extent that it has affected my ability to help people through my speaking work and, on a personal level, begun to affect my own mental health that I have put so much work into improving.

“All that I have ever wanted to achieve through my involvement in politics was to help people, to give a voice to those that felt that they were unheard or ignored by the political establishment but ultimately I must look at where I can best help those in need.

“It is with that in mind that I am stepping down from this election, not because I am scared of the abuse but because I am ready to continue working to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

She also noted the ‘record numbers of female MPs’ stepping down due to abuse.

“It’s a cliche that politics is a nasty environment but until you have been inside that world you have no idea just how vitriolic it can get and at this election record numbers of female MPs are stepping down due to unacceptable levels of abuse,” she wrote.

A spokesman for Adur and Worthing Council said: “In line with national rules, prospective candidates are able to withdraw from standing for election for any reason but only up until nominations close.

“For this current general election, this was 4pm on 14 November.

“As notification of intention to withdraw came after this date, Ms Cook’s name will remain on the ballot paper for East Worthing and Shoreham.”

Ms Cook, a former RAF engineer, stood as the parliamentary candidate for Labour at the last election in June 2017.

She received 20,882 votes – which was 11,145 more than the Labour party received in 2015.

Conservative Tim Loughton, who has represented the constituency since 1997, retained his seat but saw his majority reduced by almost 10,000 votes.

Lavinia O’Connor is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for East Worthing and Shoreham for the general election on December 12.

She is one of four candidates standing in the constituency – the others are Tim Loughton (Conservative), Ashley Ridley (Lib Dem) and Leslie Groves Williams (Green).

All four candidates are due to take part in a hustings event at Ropetackle in High Street, Shoreham, on December 2 – find out more about the event here.

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