Conservative candidate Maria Caulfield and a group of tactical voting campaigners are engaged in a war of words following a Sound of Music inspired protest in Lewes.
Lewes Progressives, which is part of the Sussex Progressives group, held the protest in Cliffe Precinct on Saturday (June 3) as part of a national campaign which seeks to encourage supporters of a range of left-wing parties to vote tactically against the Conservatives.
At the event, which was attended by around 50 people, campaigners dressed as nuns sang an adapted version of the Sound of Music’s ‘How do solve a problem like Maria?’, with lyrics changed to criticise Ms Caulfield’s record as the constituency’s MP.
Writing on Facebook on Sunday (June 4) Ms Caulfield criticised the protest. She said: “The tolerant left at their best in Lewes yesterday preaching hate. Assuming the nun costume was for the Sound of Music rather than me being a Christian MP.”
Sussex Progressives – which has endorsed Liberal Democrat Kelly-Marie Blundell as its preferred candidate for Lewes – criticised Ms Caulfield’s comments, saying her words were ‘disrespectful’ in light of the London attack.
Georgia Amson-Bradshaw, from Sussex Progressives, said: “The fact that Maria Caulfield cannot tell the difference between a light-hearted song about her voting record and ‘preaching hate’ is astounding. What happened on Saturday was dozens of local people coming together to express opposition to Caulfield’s appalling record as MP for Lewes on housing, the trains, and representing this largely Remain-voting constituency.
“That her comments came so soon after the attack in London is highly disrespectful to the many people who have genuinely suffered from actions of hate”.
Speaking to the Sussex Express, Ms Caulfield said: "I found the protest at the weekend very offensive. While many on the march may have found it a bit of fun, I see no funny side in them marching down the street chanting 'get her out' with placards with my photo on and dressing up as a nun perhaps to ridicule me as a Christian MP.
"During this campaign the personal attacks and lies against me have continued to increase to such an extent that I am now receiving threats as it is now seen as perfectly acceptable to abuse me in public. I urge opposition candidates to stick to policy debates rather than personal insults.
"Lies that have been told during the campaign include; I do not live locally when in fact I have lived less than half a mile from the constituency for more than 15 years. Lies that say I don't hold surgeries when I hold weekly surgeries in places likes Seaford library, Lewes Town Hall and Polegate Community Centre.
"In the final days of the campaign I would urge opposition parties to me more responsible considering what happened to my colleague Jo Cox this time last year. Let's stick to fighting on policies rather than personal attacks and while we may not agree on issues let us truly be tolerant of each other's views."
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