The Conservative Election Agent for Southampton Test has stopped 4 Tory candidates from attending radio interviews set up by a local radio station and speaking directly to the University of Southampton’s student newspaper Wessex Scene.
Labour’s candidates have accepted the invitations to speak at hustings as we see it as part of the democratic process of helping voters make up their minds about who to vote for.
Southampton Labour Party has issued the following statement:
The May City Council Elections are the one time in the year when the residents of Southampton can chose who to represent them at the local ward level.
Labour candidates are selected by people living in the ward they stand for. We select on the basis of their knowledge and capability to voice the concerns of people living in the ward. We expect them to stand up for the interests of the ward when they follow up on local concerns, attend council meetings and vote on resource allocation.
It is for that reason that we expect Labour candidates to be able to participate in hustings’ events alongside the other Parties’ candidates. This provides an opportunity for the electorate to hear and see them in action and in part helps them make up their minds on who to vote for. Hustings can be a helpful contribution to the local democratic process if all candidates participate in the local events. Turn out in local elections is low and such events help to stimulate interest.
It is a matter of regret that the Conservative Party Agent for Test is substituting himself in place of local ward candidates at hustings events in April. This negates the principles of local democracy since the Agent is not a candidate in May 2019 and does not in any sense represent the four wards where he is replacing the candidate at the husting. If the candidates cannot speak at a husting how can the electorate judge their capability to speak up for them in Council? Every ward is different and candidates need to know the particular issues, concerns and needs of the community they aspire to represent. If they are not visible ahead of the election it leaves open the question of how visible and active they would be in the service of their ward.