|Forest Hill this afternoon|
Many voters were asking about a chance to hear me speak at a campaign meeting or hustings. There's lots of opportunities - and here they are:
- Sunday 19 April - Bellingham Green street meeting at the end of canvassing at 2.30 pm
- Friday 24 April - Forest Hill and Sydenham Society hustings, 7pm, Holy Trinity Church, Trinity Path, SE26 4EA (but, as things stand, this EXCLUDES TUSC - see below*)
Penge High Street today
- Tuesday 28 April - Bromley Trades Council meeting, 7pm, HG Wells centre, St.Marks Road, Bromley South (Martin will be one of the trade union speakers).
- Wednesday 29 April - Penge Forum hustings, 7.30 pm, St.John's Church, Penge High Street SE20 7EQ
- Thursday 30 April - TUSC Public Meeting at the Crooked Billet pub, 99 High Street, Penge, SE20 7DT AND
- also on Thursday 30 April (Martin will try and be in two places at once!) "38 degrees" hustings, 7.30pm at St William of York Parish Room, Brockley Park, SE23 1PS
In Sydenham this morning
- Tuesday 5 May, 7,30 pm, TUSC pre-Election Rally, upstairs at The Hob, 7 Devonshire Road, SE23 3HE opposite Forest Hill station.
As things stand, the organisers of this event are unique in the constituency in seeking to argue that they have 'impartial' reasons for excluding TUSC from the hustings. This is the reply that TUSC has sent to seek to persuade them to reconsider:
"I am indeed surprised and disappointed by your decision and, moreover, I think other local residents, including those intending to attend the hustings, will be as well. I would remind you that the Electoral Commission advises that you must “be able to give impartial reasons why you have not invited particular candidates or parties” and that you should “inform the audience at the meeting of candidates or parties standing who haven’t been invited”.
I am afraid that in presenting those reasons to the meeting, your continuing insistence to exclude me from your hustings will rightly be seen as being anti-democratic, unjustified and far from ‘impartial’. Yours will be the only hustings that is seeking to exclude the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate in Lewisham West and Penge. The Electoral Commission is clear that “if you are holding a public hustings, and you want to ensure that it is a non-selective hustings, the simplest way is to invite all the relevant candidates in the area”. By choosing not to do so, you leave yourselves open to a complaint that you are organising a selective hustings, intended to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories of candidates, specifically prejudicing my electoral prospects and the prospects of TUSC locally.
I should emphasise that TUSC is standing 135 candidates at the General Election, including a third of the seats in London, clearly exceeding the national threshold for ‘fair coverage’. To exclude a party making such a widespread stand needs considerable justification. The Electoral Commission guidance that you referred to suggests that ‘impartial reasons’ for holding a selective hustings might include:
1) Local prominence of some parties or candidates over others
My campaigning record as a local NUT Secretary, NUT National Executive member and local resident gives me considerable local prominence, including in the local press. TUSC’s local base of support and campaigning activity is also not insignificant. Yet you are directly contradicting the guidance by arguing that “I'm not convinced that living and campaigning in the constituency for a number of years is a good enough reason to be included on the panel”.
2) The number of elected representatives at the local or national level
As a new party, then it is not surprising that, as yet, TUSC has few elected representatives nationally or locally. It would be unjustifiable to act in a prejudicial way that would block the prospects of a new political formation being able to develop such representation over time. However, the Socialist Party, the main constituent of TUSC locally, has recently had elected councillors sitting on Lewisham Council. UKIP has never had such an elected councillor.
3) Recent election results in the area
Your justification that you have based your decision on the results of the last parliamentary election is clearly prejudicial against a new party which did not exist at that time. Your arguments about the local elections are also unjustified. In Sydenham [in 2014], UKIP did receive 572 votes as opposed to TUSC’s 235 votes (4.5%). However, in Bellingham, TUSC received 144 votes (4.3%) whereas UKIP did not stand at all. In the previous 2011 Bellingham by-election, Ian Page, of the Socialist Party, one of the constituent parts forming the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition received 264 votes (12.3%), compared to 100 votes for the Green Party. A clear impartial distinction between TUSC, UKIP and the Greens is simply not evident from these figures.
4) Resources and other practicalities constraining numbers of invitees
You have argued that the two options considered were either to invite all candidates or to invite five. However, you have not justified at all why the decision cannot be changed to invite six candidates. Apart from an additional chair, there are no resource implications arising from inviting TUSC to speak. While I understand your concern about the practicalities of time for debate, the addition of a sixth candidate would only require a small adjustment to timings. Your justification that “we selected the second option as having most relevance to the vast majority of voters in the local area” is clearly a subjective opinion which is not objectively justified and confirms that your reasoning could not be seen as being impartial.
Once again, I would ask you to reconsider your decision.
Martin Powell-Davies, TUSC candidate for Lewisham West and Penge"