A hustings debate in the North East erupted into a full scale row between organisers and supporters of a party which said it had been unfairly excluded from the event.
It took place at Tyne Metropolitan College in Wallsend on Tuesday night in which candidates from the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP parties for the North Tyneside constituency had been invited to share a stage.
However Tim Wall, who is the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidate, was not.
Before the debate started TUSC supporters entered the hall to take organisers to task for the omission in an exchange that was filmed.
On it, Mr Wall is seen sitting in one of the seats reserved for those who had been invited, introducing himself to the slightly bemused audience and telling them: “I have a democratic right to take part.”
However, chairman of TyneMet College board of governors, Bill Midgley, is seen firmly telling him: “No you have not.”
Mr Midgley said before the event advice had been from the Association of Colleges (AoC) and they were told they should invite candidates from the three main parties as well as UKIP and the Greens as they all have MPs in parliament.
He added they were also following Electoral Commission guidelines which said it was a requirement that all candidates standing for a constituency should take part unless there was a practical or objective reason not to do.
Mr Midgley said their objective reason had been that they were following AoC guidelines, which said only parties with sitting MPs should attend.
He said that the National Front candidate for the constituency also had not been invited, a link which infuriated the TUSC supporters.
“How dare they tar us with the same brush as a race hate party when we have fought so hard against racism,” said Mr Wall after the event.
Eventually the debate went ahead, without Mr Wall taking part.
However he now says he could take the matter up with the Electoral Commission.
“We feel we were undemocratically excluded from the event.
“TUSC candidates have been invited to take part in hustings events at colleges across the country but not here. It seems to me they are all over the place.”
Mr Wall said that while a new party, formed five years ago, the TUSC was “the biggest of the small parties” as it had candidates standing in 135 constituencies and 600 in the local elections.
Mr Wall said:
“It’s unfathomable what they did. Isn’t this organisation supposed to be educating young people, presumably giving them the idea that democracy is a good thing? Instead they are deciding who they can and can’t listen to.”
Speaking after the event Mr Midgley accused the TUSC of trying to “hijack” the meeting and was adamant they had done nothing wrong and was insistent they had abided by AoC and Electoral Commission guidelines.
“We made it quite clear to them why we had invited the five candidates,” he said.
Ann Marie Crozier, Deputy Principal of the college, said it was TUSC’s prerogative to take the matter up with the Electorial Commission it they wanted to.
However she added: “We’re confident we followed the national guidelines to the letter.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Apr 2015