An education Question Time event for the General Election, organised by the NUT, the teachers’ union, and to have been staged tonight, has been cancelled after the Tory candidate on the panel pulled out, just 12 hours after saying that he was “still very much looking forward” to taking part.Samuel Kasumu, the Conservative candidate for Croydon North, had only ever been a second choice as the Tory member of the panel. He was called up after Gavin Barwell, the MP for Croydon Central since 2010, bottled the debate with his rival, Sarah Jones, by claiming to have been “double-booked”, even though the date had been arranged at his own request.
When contacted by the event organisers last night, a Tory campaign assistant wrote that Kasumu was “still very mich [sic] looking forward to thr [sic] event tomorrow as long as its [sic] still on”. All election campaigning was suspended yesterday, following the dreadful events of Monday night in Manchester.
Last night, Theresa Mayhem, the unelected Prime Minister, and Tory central office announced that campaigning would continue to be suspended, indefinitely. So this morning, at 8am, just 12 hours after having responded positively to attending an event tonight, Kasumu’s aide emailed organisers again, this time stating that he “would like to postpone”.
With pupils and staff on half-term next week, the Croydon NUT organisers felt that they would be unable to rearrange the event before the General Election.
Some see the suspension of the election campaign by the Tories, ostensibly out of respect for the victims and families of the Manchester bombing, as a cynical act, manipulating the terrible events of Monday for their politcal advantage. This disengagement can be seen as a contination of May’s refusal to debate with other party leaders, a policy which has also seen Barwell sit in a television studio and say that he would not discuss issues with other parties.The Tories have clearly calculated that neither Jeremy Corbyn, for Labour, or the other political parties will dare call for a resumption of the campaign, at risk of being accused in the Tory-supporting press of having no respect for the victims of the bombing. The Tories are saying that some local campaigning might take place, but not national electioneering – the same convenient distinction which they exploited in 2015 to get around strict rules over election spending.
Others, though, have expressed their frustration at the way the Tories are using Monday night’s tragic events to shutdown democratic debate and the election campaign.
Tim Nickols is a Croydon parent who was to have been one of the education Question Time panel members tonight. “Really disappointing and unfortunately it seems to fit in with a theme of active disengagement with the public and other candidates by current government personnel and supposed representatives,” Nickols said when hearing of the cancellation.
“From a personal perspective, while we should all respect the wishes of those affected by the atrocity in Manchester and take much time to consider its implications and ramifications, surely this makes political engagement even more imperative? I fear the current government will be using this saddest of events to cynically disengage from public debate even further.”
On his own website today, Barwell has posted an article explaining that he won’t be campaigning for the foreseeable. “We will make a decision about when to resume campaigning as the situation becomes clearer, but in the meantime I hope you will understand why we are not knocking on your door,” he wrote, in the certain knowledge that other political groups would not dare to be out canvassing, either.
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