Candy Atherton

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Candy Atherton
Member of Parliament
for Falmouth and Camborne
In office
1 May 1997 – 5 May 2005
Preceded bySebastian Coe
Succeeded byJulia Goldsworthy
Personal details
Born(1955-09-21)21 September 1955
Died30 October 2017(2017-10-30) (aged 62)
Political partyLabour
Alma materPolytechnic of North London
OccupationFreelance journalist (feminism)

Candice Kathleen Atherton (21 September 1955 – 30 October 2017) was an English journalist and Labour Party politician. After serving as a councillor in Islington, where she was mayor, she was Member of Parliament for Falmouth and Camborne from 1997 to 2005. Up until her death she lived in Cornwall and was a member of its local Council.

Early life[edit]

She attended the independent Roman Catholic all-girls Convent of the Sacred Heart (now called Woldingham School) in Woldingham, Surrey, then Midhurst Grammar School in West Sussex. From the Polytechnic of North London (now London Metropolitan University), she graduated BA in Applied Social Studies in 1985.


Atherton worked as a journalist from 1980. In 1984, she co-founded Everywoman magazine - a "post-feminist" women's magazine, and later co-wrote a book on housing for single homeless people in North London. Atherton also worked with ex-offenders, and co-founded a refuge for battered women in West Sussex.

Political career[edit]

In 1982, she led protests within the Labour Party and the CND movement against the Task Force sent to the Falkland Islands.[1]

From 1986 to 1992, she served as a Labour councillor in the London Borough of Islington and was mayor for the year 1989-1990. She chaired the Women's and Disability Committees of both Islington and the Association of London Labour Authorities.

Atherton stood for Labour at Chesham and Amersham in the 1992 general election. In the mid 1990s, she left London and lived in Westbury, Wiltshire, where in 1993 she stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate in elections to Wiltshire County Council.

She then worked for the Labour Party and UNISON before being selected to fight the three-way marginal seat of Falmouth and Camborne, after the local Labour Party had imposed the first all-women shortlist in the country. Such shortlists were subsequently ruled to be in breach of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, and thus unlawful.[2] Despite that judgement, she remained in place as the candidate for the 1997 general election. Taking Labour from third place to first, she was elected as the Member of Parliament for Falmouth and Camborne, holding the seat until the election of 2005.

She doubled her majority in the 2001 election, having successfully campaigned for Objective One status for Cornwall, for the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, and for a university in Cornwall. She spearheaded the campaign to open a Minor Injuries Unit in Camborne Redruth Community Hospital - now used by more than 12,000 people a year - and the campaign to expose the nerve gas station at Nancekuke (RRH Portreath) in her constituency, an issue, surprisingly, that had been well known to the people of the area for several decades.[citation needed]

At the 2005 General Election, Atherton lost her seat to Liberal Democrat Julia Goldsworthy by a majority of 1,886.

Paul Phillips, a gay aide Atherton employed for a year until March 2004, resigned and claimed discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, accusing her of homophobia and of asking him to find information on her Conservative opponent in Falmouth because he was also gay. The accusation of 'digging the dirt' was coined by the Tribunal Chair at the initial hearing and although Phillips denied that he had ever alleged this, the phrase stuck. Atherton denied having treated Phillips in any discriminatory way. The case was thrown out.[3] Atherton's record of voting in the House of Commons was generally supportive of gay rights.[4]

After Parliament[edit]

From 2005-08, Atherton was a Board member of the Housing Corporation and she chaired the Rural Housing Advisory Panel, which advises the British government on rural housing issues. In 2006, she founded Atherton Associates, a public affairs company,[5] and has worked for British Waterways and the Inland Waterways Association and with Weber Shandwick Public Affairs. From October 2008, she was a Board member of the Homes and Communities Agency. She was the Vice Chair of the Truro and Falmouth Constituency Labour Party and was member of the Labour Party's South West Regional Board.

Atherton married a Cornishman, Broderick Ross, in 2002, and lived with him in Falmouth, Cornwall. In 2009 Atherton, her husband, her mother Pam Atherton and her mother-in law Betty Ross, all stood for election to the newly formed Cornwall Council. Atherton contested the Carn Brea North division, finishing third in a field of four, with 23% of the vote, while her husband finished last out of four in Camborne Central with 11%. Both seats were won by the Conservatives. Pam Atherton finished last out of six in St Day and Lanner with 3%, and Betty Ross finished last out of seven in Wendron, both of those contests being won by Independents. Atherton was elected to Cornwall Council in the 2013 local elections, representing the Falmouth Smithick division.[6]

In 2014, she acted as the spearhead to pass an Article 4 direction through Cornwall Council, a piece of legislation which requires landlords planning to convert a property into a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) to have planning permission.[7]

She opposed the expansion of Falmouth University in 2016.[8]


Atherton died suddenly overnight on 30 October 2017 at the age of 62.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Julian Lewis, When Is a Smear Not a Smear?, in Salisbury Review, October 1984, online at
  2. ^ Rentoul, John; Ward, Stephen; MacIntyre, Donald (9 January 1996). "Labour blow as all-women lists outlawed". London: The Independent. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  3. ^ Aide asked to 'dig dirt' on rival, dated 25 January 2005, at
  4. ^ Candy Atherton compared to 'Homosexuality - Equal rights
  5. ^ Atherton Associates website Archived 16 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 31 October 2017.
  6. ^ "Election results for Falmouth Smithick". Cornwall Council. Retrieved 4 May 2013.
  7. ^ "Council clamp-down on multi occupancy homes in Falmouth as 'Article 4' finally agreed", Falmouth Packet, 5 March 2014.
  8. ^ Helen Dale, "Universities' expansion plans opposed by Falmouth councillors who agree the town is at "bursting point", Falmouth Packet, 25 May 2016.
  9. ^ Candy Atherton, the former Labour MP, has 'died suddenly'
  10. ^ Langdon, Julia (3 November 2017). "Candy Atherton obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 5 November 2017.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sebastian Coe
Member of Parliament for Falmouth and Camborne
Succeeded by
Julia Goldsworthy