University Conservative Association slam Tory candidate over mental health comments

Olly Hudson 14 April 2015

Cambridge University Conservative Association has openly condemned parliamentary candidate Chamali Fernando, after comments she made suggesting those suffering from mental illness should wear wristbands.

In a statement released last night on Twitter, the Cambridge University Conservative Association declared: “As an organisation, we would like to condemn such comments, and emphasise that they do not in any way reflect the views of CUCA or of the Conservative Party.”

Fernando has now come under fire from both Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, and Labour’s shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham who said: “Comments like this are so disappointing. Jeremy Hunt must disown these comments, instruct his candidate to apologise and make it clear that they form no part of Conservative Party policy.”

The Deputy Prime Minister told MailOnline: “The Liberal Democrats have spent many years campaigning for an end to the stigma around mental health.”

“Silly ideas like making people suffering from mental health issues wear wristbands would only increase the discrimination and stigma around mental health, rather than end it.”

Fernando is also facing calls from campaigners to step down as the Conservative Party candidate for Cambridge, with an online petition labelling her comments “degrading, dehumanizing and insulting to those suffering from mental illness.”

Details of the comments emerged after Cambridge blogger, Richard Taylor tweeted from a hustings event, asking: “I wonder if wristbands for those with mental health problems is a Conservative policy, or just @whereis007’s?”

Ms Fernando, herself a practising barrister, allegedly claimed that different coloured wristbands to signify different mental health conditions could be useful for those working in the legal profession, the police force and medicine to help individuals who may otherwise struggle explaining their situation.

In a comment to The Cambridge Student, a Conservative Party spokesperson claimed that Richard Taylor “has completely distorted the comment”, before going on to attack the blogger for “seeking to grab a headline.”

Defending Fernando’s comments, the spokesperson referenced a recent Cambridge National Autistic Society hustings in which the chairman claimed to carry a green card in his wallet in order to identify his condition.

The statement concluded that to wear a wristband “would be a matter of individual choice and through consultation with experts and would need to be accompanied with the requisite training for health care and law enforcement professionals.”

Despite Ms Fernando’s comments attracting national attention, no senior Conservative Party figures have publically addressed them as of yet.