A UKIP parliamentary candidate has lashed out at a city college after not being included in an election hustings.Advertisement
Preston’s College is holding an election debate at their Fulwood campus on Wednesday evening but James Barker, standing for the UK Indpendendence Party in Preston, claims college bosses failed to invite him.
Mr Barker said: “The college is taxpayer-funded, so surely they have a duty to be evenhanded.
“Who are these college managers who say what students can and can’t hear? On what grounds?
“An election is precisely the time when all points of view should be heard and debated, yet the college seems to think it has a duty to protect students from the widest range of opinions.
“This is a fundamental question in a democracy and, as such, young people have the right to hear as many views as possible.
“The college has invited Labour, the Conservatives, the Greens and the Lib Dems – but not UKIP. It really is an offence to thousands of UKIP voters. We outpolled the Conservatives, the Lib Dems and the Greens in Preston last May – yet the college has unilaterally barred UKIP from public debate.
“We have lodged an official complaint with the college and we hope they will either invite UKIP to tonight’s event or cancel it and reschedule it pending them putting proper and fair arrangements in place.
“I believe my opponents are fair-minded people who support the democratic need to have proper debate in an election. I am asking them to boycott the hustings until fair arrangements are put in place for all candidates to be represented.”
The College has issued a state rebuffing Mr Barker’s comments, saying the event was organised in February before many parties had declared their candidates.
A spokesperson from Preston’s College said: “When Preston’s College organised the event, in late February 2015, neither UKIP or the Green Party had published electoral candidate lists in place. The College needed sufficient lead time into the event to organise invites to party candidates, the college student body and college governors. If candidates for the UKIP and Green parties had been in place they would certainly have been invited to the event.
“Equally, this Monday (27th April), when UKIP first made contact with Preston’s College, all the pre event information had already been distributed to attendees, including details of those attending parties’ education policy statements to help the audience consider potential questions, and it was felt not having similar information distributed for UKIP could create less fairness within the debate. UKIP also indicated that they would not be able to provide a candidate from Wyre and Preston North, the constituency which all the attending candidates are hoping to represent.
“Preston’s College would like to highlight that it shows no political bias and this event has principally been organised to provide some invited learners with an opportunity to both participate in and learn from this type of debate.”
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