THE Liberal Democrats’ General Election campaign was last night thrown into turmoil as a leading Parliamentary candidate quit.
Greg Stone dramatically resigned as Lib Dem candidate for Newcastle East after facing mounting calls to go in the light of offensive comments he made on a political blog.
Mr Stone initially seemed ready to fight on after being exposed as the author of blog posts written under a pseudonym on the Guido Fawkes website.
He apologised when the row broke and said he had learned a “hard lesson” last month.
But his party yesterday accepted his resignation and a senior Lib Dem councillor in Newcastle threw her name into the ring to replace him.
Wendy Taylor, who sits on the city council executive, said everyone agreed that Mr Stone’s comments were inappropriate but questioned whether he had had to step down because of them. But she added: “I have put my name forward to be an approved candidate. Obviously, it is up to the party whether they want to put me through.”
Regional Minister Nick Brown, Labour’s candidate in Newcastle East, said Mr Stone’s behaviour had been “despicable” and that he had nobody to blame but himself.
“There is no defence for it and there should be no place for it in the public life of our great city,” said Mr Brown.
Accusing the Lib Dems of “dithering”, he said: “Had something like this happened in the Labour Party or indeed the Conservative Party, the perpetrator would be thrown out straight away.
“It shows Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats for the shambles they are.”
Mr Stone wrote that Foreign Secretary David Miliband looked “monged”, wondered “how much botox is Hazel Blears on?” in reference to the then Communities Secretary, and said another MP looked drunk.
He also called Labour MP Sharon Hodgson “the thickest MP in the House” and hoped rival Nick Brown “might not be around after the General Election”.
Last night, Lucy Keating, chairman of Newcastle Liberal Democrats issued a statement, saying: “Greg Stone has offered his resignation as Parliamentary candidate for Newcastle East which I have accepted on behalf of the party.
“Greg has concluded that remaining as a candidate would allow the Labour Party to distract attention from the real issues, which the public want addressed in the forthcoming general election.
“We will select a new candidate as rapidly as possible to continue to campaign on behalf of the people of Newcastle East for the fairer society that the Liberal Democrats stand for.”
Ron Beadle, the Lib Dem’s candidate in Newcastle North, said: “It is very unfortunate that Greg Stone has decided to resign, but understandable given the circumstances.”
He added the Lib Dems would unite around a new Parliamentary candidate in Newcastle East.
Mr Stone himself could not be reached for a comment, but The Journal understands he will fight for re-election as a councillor on Newcastle City Council in May.