Labour candidate John O'Farrell has said he will not stand in the 2015 General Election, in part because of the vilification he received from tabloids for comments about Margaret Thatcher's death he made in his autobiography.
Writing in the Guardian, the former satirist said he wanted to stand originally to "help the party avoid disappearing completely in a Swiftian battle between two coalition parties fighting tooth and nail to vote for identical policies."
Labour's John O'Farrell campaigning in Eastleigh
"And for a second I fantasised that if enough disgruntled Liberal Democrats switched to Labour and a protest bandwagon began to roll, then maybe we could actually win it."
His decision not to stand was met with sadness from many Labour colleagues.
Reading @mrjohnofarrell column for the Guardian abt his treatment by the Mail, I'm really sorry that he's decided not to stand in 2015.
— Lucy Powell (@LucyMPowell) March 1, 2013
— Tom Harris (@TomHarrisMP) March 1, 2013
The controversy first arose when the Daily Mail ran a series of pieces on O'Farrell, including one entitled "Is Ed's mate the sickest man in politics?".
They were referring to a 1998 book, Things Can Only Get Better, where O'Farrell wrote that he felt a fleeting sense of disappointment that Margaret Thatcher had not been killed in a 1984 IRA bombing. Five people died in the attack on the Grand Hotel in Brighton.
Prime Minister David Cameron called John O'Farrell's comments "a complete disgrace" during Prime Minister's Questions.
O'Farrell defended himself on Twitter, posting: "I wrote an honest memoir and volunteered this fleeting bad thought from 1984 to illustrate how hatred can poison politics."
Labour came fourth in the Eastleigh by-election on Thursday, which was won by Lib Dem Mike Thornton, his party also beaten by the Tories and Ukip.
I should emphasise that I always thought I probably wouldn't stand in 2015 if I didn't win Eastleigh.I hadn't got myself on any lists etc
— John O'Farrell (@mrjohnofarrell) March 1, 2013
In the blog, published on Friday night, O'Farrell accused Tory whips of "planting questions about me for David Cameron and abusing their parliamentary privilege to say I supported terrorism."
"When the local paper cut and pasted the Mail article onto their front page (without I might add, giving me the opportunity to comment), I learned that I had made a classic byelection gaffe of being personally responsible for every death caused by the IRA since 1921," he joked.
"I don't doubt that constantly having to repeat that I never supported terrorism damaged me. And I worry about the Facebook generation going into politics, when every sick one-liner or embarrassing photo will be there in the archive for smears in later life."
Dismissing rumours that he would be rewarded with a safe seat for Labour in 2015, O'Farrell said he had decided not to run. "I think I can be more effective with the freedoms that not being a traditional politician provides."
SPINNING AROUND: Conservatives Spin Loss As Victory For Coalition
Suggested For You
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements.Learn more