Labour mayoral candidate accused of ‘insulting electorate’ after rejecting hustings invite

Labour mayoral candidate Caroline Woodley. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Labour’s mayoral hopeful Caroline Woodley has been accused of “insulting the electorate” after turning down an invite to a hustings.

Hackney Cycling Campaign (HCC) is hosting an event on 1 November that will see voters given a chance to grill candidates standing in the by-election eight days later.

A spokesperson for HCC said: “Unfortunately, Caroline isn’t available to attend the hustings.”

The group expressed its disappointment that Woodley, a cabinet member at Hackney Council, will be a no-show.

Woodley has twice been asked by the Citizen to explain why she would not be attending the hustings, but she said only that she “won’t be going to any that have been advertised at present”.

“My focus is on speaking to as many residents as possible over the coming weeks on the doorstep,” she added.

“Our campaign for a greener, fairer borough has been at the heart of conversations with thousands of people on the doorstep every week as we have set out our ambitions for Hackney.

“We have enormous respect for the work of Hackney Cycling Campaign (HCC) and have taken huge strides in recent years to support sustainable transport and make our streets safer and I am committed to continuing that work.

“I want to engage with the widest possible range of people over the course of this campaign and will keep getting out on the doorstep as much as possible.

“I’ve offered HCC a meeting, and my door is open to them regarding issues they’d like to discuss.”

Green councillor Alastair Binnie-Lubbock described Woodley’s stance as “an insult to the electorate”.

He said: “Hustings are a vital and traditional part of our democratic processes. This election has come about because of Labour’s lack of transparency and now they are dodging more scrutiny. This doesn’t bode well.”

Woodley’s fellow candidates were also critical.

Annoesjka Valent, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate, said: “It is wrong. You need to be available.”

She added that hustings are an opportunity for the hopefuls to share their plans with voters.

Peter Smorthit, the Independent candidate, said: “[Woodley] should be there to answer people’s questions. This is the electorate at the end of the day.”

Conservative candidate Simche Steinberger said he cannot run another party’s diary.

The mayoral by-election on Thursday 9 November was triggered by the resignation of Labour’s Philip Glanville.

He quit after making an “error of judgement” by attending a party in May 2022 with Tom Dewey, a newly elected councillor, on the same day he had been informed of Dewey’s arrest.

Glanville had previously said he had not seen Dewey after learning of the arrest, but a photograph emerged showing them both at the party.

Dewey was this year given a 12-month suspended sentence after he admitted possessing indecent images of children.

Woodley told the Citizen: “I was deeply shocked to learn of Tom Dewey’s abhorrent crimes. Safeguarding is my first priority.”

She welcomed the council’s commission of an independent review into the events surrounding Dewey’s resignation.

The candidates standing for election on Thursday 9 November are: Zoë Garbett, Green; Caroline Woodley, Labour; Peter Smorthit, Independent; Simon de Deney, Liberal Democrat; Simche Steinberger, Conservatives; and Annoesjka Valent, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.