Exclusion from question time event was ‘denial of democracy,’ says candidate


Out in the cold: Labour’s Meg Hillier with TUSC candidate Brian Debus outside the question time event.

A candidate running for Hackney South and Shoreditch in the General Election said his exclusion from a question time event at Hackney Community College was a “denial of democracy”.

The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate Brian Debus has complained that he was refused the opportunity to present the views of the TUSC during the event on 29 April.

Debus, who is Chair of the Hackney Council Unison branch and President of Hackney Trades Council, has supported Hackney Community College’s staff and students against the cuts in courses and staffing over the years.

He told the Citizen: “They officially invited me to a hustings meeting, then a few days after that, they said this was a mistake and they were only inviting candidates who had MPs sitting in parliament. I wrote back and said it was a denial of democracy.

“If you use their logic, you would never get any new MPs in parliament. They said they were happy for me to be a member of the audience. Frankly, that is completely unsatisfactory. I attended five other hustings and there was no problem. It’s not for the college to decide who gets a platform.

“I work in the library next door. I have participated in several protests over the years against cuts to staffing at Hackney Community College and I am pretty sure I am the only candidate to do so.”

The Principal of Hackney Community College Ian Ashman said only candidates from parties with sitting MPs were invited to ensure there was time for “meaningful debate”. He said: “The event at Hackney Community College was a question time format rather than an official hustings.

“We invited candidates whose parties held seats in England in the last Parliament so as to make sure that we allowed sufficient time per candidate for a meaningful debate with the parties most likely to be part of a future government and therefore having an influence on policies and funding affecting education and other local services.

“The format allowed the audience of over 100 to hear detailed responses to six questions from the five candidates, something that would have been impossible with all 11 candidates.  We also invited Brian to attend the event, ask a question and have a right of reply. He was not barred from the campus.”