16 December 2009
Brain injuries from Mugabe and Moscow bashings thwart bid to be Oxford East MP
"It is with great regret and reluctance that I am standing down as the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East. My brain injuries from the Mugabe and Moscow bashings mean that I would not be able to campaign effectively in the general election or do the duties required of an MP, if I was elected," human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell announced today.
"It would not be right for me to seek election if I could not do the job of an MP to the high standards that I want and that Oxford East voters have a right to expect.
"If I was elected, I could manage the parliamentary duties or the constituency work. But my health is not strong enough for me to do both.
"This is huge disappointment and frustration. Oxford East is a target Green seat. In the county elections in June, the Greens were neck-and-neck with the Liberal Democrats as the main challenger to Labour. The European elections saw the Greens win in Oxford East, well ahead of Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories.
"The brain damage caused by Mugabe's thugs in Brussels in 2001 and by neo-Nazis in Moscow in 2007 has been compounded by head injuries in an accident while I was campaigning in Devon in July. A bus on which I was travelling swerved and braked sharply. I was thrown forward, hitting my head on a metal handrail.
"The injuries don't stop me from campaigning but I am slower, make more mistakes, get tired easily and take longer to do things. My memory, concentration, balance and coordination have been adversley affected. I can't campaign at the pace I used to.
"I was selected as the Green Party candidate for Oxford East in April 2007. A month later, I was badly beaten around the head by neo-Nazis during an attempted Gay Pride parade in Moscow.
"This exacerbated the brain damage caused when I was bashed unconscious by President Mugabe's bodyguards in Brussels in 2001, after attempting to make a citizen's arrest of the Zimbabwean leader on charges of torture.
"Following the Moscow assault, I never rested and recuperated. I carried on campaigning, with a very heavy schedule of commitments in Oxford East. After several months, I was severely exhausted. This stress and exhaustion probably intensified the damage and thwarted my recovery.
"I have postponed making this announcement for several months, in the hope that I might get better and be able to carry on as the Green candidate. Unfortunately, my condition has not improved. If anything, it is worse.
"There is, however, a glimmer of hope for the future. The medical advice is that if I slow down and reduce my workload my condition may improve in a year or so. On the downside, I am unlikely to ever recover fully. Some of the damage is probably permanent.
"I don't regret a thing. Getting a thrashing and brain injuries was not what I had expected or wanted. But I was aware of the risks. Taking risks is sometimes necessary, in order to challenge injustice. My beatings had the positive effect of helping draw international attention to the violent, repressive nature of the Russian and Zimbabwean regimes. I'm glad of that.
"My physical inconveniences are nothing by comparison to the far worse beatings inflicted on human rights defenders in countries like Russia, Iran, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Columbia, Sudan and Burma. These heroic activists often end up jailed or dead. I count myself lucky.
"The Oxford Green Party expects to select a new parliamentary candidate in January. That person will have my wholehearted support. I intend to campaign with them during the general election.
"I would like to thank members of Oxford Green Party for their immense kindness, support, and generosity during my two and a half years as their candidate. It has been a pleasure working with the Oxford Greens and I wish them future success," said Mr Tatchell.
Caroline Lucas MEP, the leader of the Green Party, said today: "Peter is one of those truly inspiring people. It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with him. I'm sure I can speak for all Greens in sending Peter our thanks and congratulations for his tremendous work as a Green Party candidate, and our very best wishes for his recovery."