Dispute erupts over '˜hang' message on social media

A row has exploded between two rivals of Wigan's political scene as the build-up to the 2016 local elections threatens to turn sour.

Tuesday, 1st March 2016, 12:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 8:16 am
Ray Whittingham

Outspoken representative for Standish, Coun Gareth Fairhurst, has accused an opponent of encouraging him to commit suicide in a “disgusting” social media post.

However, Conservative candidate Ray Whittingham hit back at the claims, explaining he had meant his rival was going to “hang himself out to dry.”

The Facebook post from the Ray4Standish account, written last week and still up on the site, states: “Thanks Alan, hopefully he will hang his self over this” referring to a post about Coun Fairhurst.

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In a statement issued to the Evening Post, Mr Whittingham accused his ward councillor of “making an issue where none exists.”

Adding: “Whilst a child would understand what I meant, for the avoidance of doubt, I was referring to him hanging himself out to dry. A figure of speech used locally, which I am sure he will have come across.

“His childish rants do not warrant any further comment and I am dismayed why such a none story should get column inches in your paper.”

The comment in question was in response to a resident who had in turn responded to a post from Mr Whittingham denying claims made by Coun Fairhurst that the Tory candidate had made disparaging comments about the Fairhurst family.

The pair have been at loggerheads in recent years over a number of political issues in Standish with Mr Whittingham standing against members of Coun Fairhurst’s Standish Independents Group in recent elections. This year the pair are direct rivals as Coun Fairhurst is up for re-election.

The councillor said: “Political rivalry can get quite heated at times but in my 15 years in being involved in politics I’ve never seen anything like this, to post something like this so publicly.

“I’m pretty sure the people of Standish will be disgusted and will not want someone like that to represent them. He’s taken it to another level, this is vile nastiness, it’s not needed.”

The Evening Post understands the matter has been reported to Conservative head office by Coun Fairhurst.