Birmingham Council House, Committee Rooms 3 and 4, on 17th April, at 11 a.m.
“We are asking the major English political parties presently in Parliament to be represented at our hustings on issues related to pensioners and in particular the pensioners manifesto”
The West Midlands Pensioners Convention (WMPC) announced on Sunday March 1st that they will not be including all four main parties in their election hustings, to be held on 17th April at Birmingham Council House, despite advertising the event on their web site with the above tag line
In an email to Paul Long (UKIP Communications Manager for the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield) and myself, Bob Mitchell (IT Manager for WMPC) announced that the panel will in fact be limited to representatives of NPC, Age UK, Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.
As a result of this decision West Midlands pensioners will be denied the opportunity to question and examine UKIP policies in detail. It will also give other parties a perfect platform to deliberately misrepresent the policies and intentions of UKIP as a party. It is particularly surprising that this decision has been made when UKIP is highly likely to receive strong support from the ‘more mature’ section of the electorate in the elections on May 7th.
This exclusion of UKIP closely follows a recent OfCom announcement regarding which parties should be deemed to be ‘main’ or ‘major’ parties for the purposes of the upcoming televised leadership debates. An exhaustive procedure was adopted employing a wide set of criteria, the conclusion was that these should be Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and UKIP.
Neither NPC or Age UK are political parties and do not have candidates standing in the West Midlands region. Nationally UKIP has more members than the Liberal Democrat party and is consistently polling considerably higher than the Liberal Democrat Party (typically approx 15%, to LibDems 7 or 8% at most).
Both the Conservative Party and Age UK are yet to confirm a representative for attendance, however UKIP volunteered two parliamentary candidates several weeks ago. These were Pete Durnell for Warley and Marcus John Brown for the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield.
UKIP provide unquestionably the only realistic opposition to the sitting MP in a considerable number, probably the majority of seats in the West Midlands. Local and European election results of May 2014 demonstrate this very clearly. Lord Ashcroft has conducted very recent polling which shows that this continues to be the case.
UKIP won the last national election held in the UK, the 2014 European elections, and now has more MEPs than any other party.
The Conservative party website recently listed West Bromwich East, West Bromwich West and Warley as ‘non-target’ seats, although this was taken down shortly afterwards, it’s clear they recognise that realistically they have no chance of winning.. in the borough of Sandwell, there will effectively be two choices in May – UKIP and Labour.
UKIP have been invited to take part pretty much ‘universally’ in political debates across the UK. Examples in the West Midlands include Birmingham City University, Birmingham University, the Sikh Federation and Black Heritage Churches, amongst many others.
The fact this debate is taking place in the Birmingham Council Offices suggests that the current Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors may have influenced this decision, the close association which West Midlands Pensioners Convention has with the TUC may also help to explain it.
We have made the above points as forcefully as we can, but the West Midlands Pensioners Convention appear determined to allow Labour to have a ‘free run’ at their event, with their only realistic opposition in most seats in the region excluded.
Ultimately of course it’s entirely up to the organisers who they invite to take part in any event, however when UKIP as main opposition is excluded from debating, it’s only reasonable to question why this might be, and to highlight the fact that we very much would have liked to have participated.