This week’s televised General Election debate with seven party leaders could never have happened in Croydon if left to one local group, who have patronisingly decided that a hustings with more than three candidates would take too long and be too complicated for parents living locally.
The Selhurst ABCD Community Connectors are staging an elections hustings on April 14, but they have only invited three of the seven declared candidates, with just Labour’s Steve Reed OBE, Tory Vidhi Mohan and Shasha Khan, of the Greens, to appear at an event backed by the Redhill-based Croydon Sadvertiser, whose editor Glenn Ebrey has agreed to be chairman.
The organisers’ arbitrary and anti-democratic decision has even managed to omit a candidate from one of the parties in the coalition government.
One of the excluded candidates, Glen Hart, has accused the organisers of being “insulting” by deliberately preventing him from taking part in what is being presented as a public debate.
Hart describes the organisers’ excuse – that having all seven candidates attend the hustings would make the event too long for parents with children – as “extremely feeble”.
“I was born and grew up with my siblings in this area,” Hart said. “I’m also raising three children, who all go school or college locally, so it’s actually quite insulting.
“They’ve not invited me, despite being fully aware there’s more than three candidates standing in Croydon North,” said Hart, who is standing for the Trades Union and Socialist Coalition – TUSC.
As well as Hart being excluded, the organisers have avoided asking UKIP’s Winston McKenzie and candidates from the Communist Party (Ben Stevenson) and the Liberal Democrats (Joanna Corbin).
Although the hustings are being staged ahead of a parliamentary election for the Croydon North constituency, the organisers justify their selection of only three candidates because of the result of last month’s Selhurst council ward by-election, when just 2,138 people of an electorate of 11,000 bothered to vote – a miserably poor turn out of just 18.6 per cent.
When the Croydon North by-election for the parliamentary constituency was held in 2012, with a 26.5 per cent turn-out, UKIP finished third behind Labour and Conservatives.
For Hart, his exclusion is the latest example of the anti-democratic nature of the election, in which the smaller parties get fewer opportunities to put forward their alternative policies and positions, thus reinforcing the two-party duopoly at Westminster.
It seems highly unlikely that either Reed or Mohan, a Croydon councillor for Fairfield ward, will have insisted on proper democratic principles by allowing all other candidates share the platform with them.
“Election candidates from the two main parties tend to appeal to popular opinions rather than offer anything new,” Hart said. “The only agenda I have is to provide a real alternative by speaking from a working-class perspective. I offer something different to the typical career-aspired politicising.
“If being honest and frank is seen by the organisers as controversial, then so be it. They’re missing the chance to give voters something different.
“I actually get on with Steve Reed, but politically he hasn’t done anything for Croydon North residents since he was elected MP in 2012. His record already speaks for itself. We saw it when he was head of Lambeth and we’re seeing it again. You only have to walk around the constituency and see how little has been done for the residents of Croydon North.
“Understandably, the organisers want a polite affair. They obviously don’t want a representative, who was born, lives, worked and raises a family in the area,” Hart said.
“It’s to the organiser’s own detriment that they exclude me and other candidates. When the Greens were excluded from the leaders’ TV debates there was a massive uproar. I wonder how many of their candidates are demanding a fair and broad debate with as many of the candidates as possible?
“People want a real alternative. A people’s MP on a worker’s wage. But they won’t get a chance to hear me at these hustings.”
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