On Monday evening I attended the local election debate at Hinguar Primary School for West Shoebury and Shoeburyness candidates, advertised in your pages (Southend Echo, 9th May). You can imagine my surprise, then, where upon arrival and with no notice I was informed that the terms had been changed and it would be just for Shoeburyness candidates.
The effect was to create a debate only between the sitting Conservative councillor and the Independent candidate (whose group had been involved in organising the event). It was a shame that the debate was so needlessly constrained, particularly given that the main subject of discussion (the sea wall) is primarily in West Shoebury ward, where I am campaigning to represent the residents after the election.
But what angered me greatly was the assertion that the Labour candidate for Shoeburyness had “decided not to turn up”. This was absolutely not true. Maggie Kelly was unable to attend due to the short notice and her working commitments, which is the very reason that I – as the candidate for West Shoebury – was to take part in the debate.
Labour’s voice was deliberately cut out of the debate and I am very disappointed that the organisers resorted to this, as Labour is the only party in Southend with an optimistic and forward-looking plan for the borough. A cynic might wonder if this was the reason I was not allowed to participate.
Matthew S. Dent
Labour candidate for West Shoebury