General election hustings organised by the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS), due to take place in LT2 this evening from 18:00, are a chance for UEA students to go along and hear from the candidates trying to inspire you to vote for them come 7th May. However, whilst most of the candidates campaigning for the constituency of Norwich South – the constituency in which UEA lies – will be attending, two candidates have not been invited.
When asked why these candidates had been left out, Chris Jarvis, Campaigns and Democracy officer at UUEAS said: “We planned a hustings for candidates standing in Norwich South in the General Election over a month ago. We invited all prospective parliamentary candidates who had announced their intention to stand in Norwich South. At the time, this included representatives from Ukip, Labour, the Conservatives, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats.
“Since then, two additional candidates have been announced. Their candidacy was brought to our attention recently, and unfortunately, since the hustings is taking place [this evening], we did not have time to go through our internal vetting process for speakers. As such, these two additional candidates will not be able to speak from the panel at our hustings.
“What we have since done, however, is contact both of these candidates, offering them to send a written statement to be read out at the event. We hope that this strikes an adequate balance between our own internal vetting processes and our commitment to ensuring free and fair debate”.
However David Peel, the candidate running for Class War who has not been invited to attend, says this is a case of putting “bureaucracy in the way of democracy”. In the 2015 general election, Class War are aiming “to launch a furious and co-ordinated political offensive against the ruling class with the opportunity an election gives us to talk politics to our class”. Most relevant to voters in Norwich South, this means a commitment to free education and to fighting austerity. Peel, who has lived in Norfolk for most of his life, says he announced his candidacy last week and only became aware of the hustings when one of his subscribers asked him why he wasn’t attending, after seeing the event of Facebook.
Peel says that he was told, as the union’s statement confirms, that it was too late to take part in the hustings due to internal vetting procedures. He says: “it all came as a bit of a shock that hustings were being held and I wasn’t invited […] I am a properly constituted candidate in a general election, I’ve paid my deposit”. He dismisses the reasons given for his exclusion as “pathetic” and says that offering a written statement to be read out isn’t enough as “you can’t substitute a candidate, who is going to be on a panel, interacting with the panel but more importantly members of the audience, with a five-minute statement which they will read out […] It sounds like a sop to me”.
UEA Liberal Democrat Society president, Yan Malinowski, said: “We fully support the rights of all candidates in an election to have their voices heard. We believe in freedom of speech and freedom of expression and we find it regrettable that the union has had some difficulties in allowing this to happen”.
Peel says that he and his team will be present to hold a demonstration outside the lecture theatre this evening, speaking to those students attending, as well as being present at the Norfolk People’s Assembly hustings and March for the Homeless, both of which are taking place in Norwich this week.
Concrete has also attempted to contact the independent candidate Cengiz Ceker, also absent from tonight’s hustings, but has not received a response at this time.