When I narrowly* lost the West Shoebury local council election in May 2014, only the victor — UKIP’s James Moyies — gave a speech. As he came down at the end of it, he came up to me and asked why I hadn’t given a speech myself. He was worried that I had, in effect, no platformed him.
The truth was that this was my first time at a Southend election count, and I didn’t realise that anyone but the winning candidate gave a speech. Naivety, basically, and I told the new Cllr Moyies as much.
It is in this light that I am very disappointed to see that Southend Against the Cuts have decided to exclude UKIP from their general election hustings.
I don’t agree with UKIP’s politics. Locally, I defy anyone to say they have done more to oppose UKIP ideology, and to shine a light on their words and actions in Southend. I cannot be described by anybody as a UKIP supporter or sympathetic to their aims.
I am not a member of Southend Against the Cuts, though I would class myself as left-wing. Centre left, to be precise. I like to describe myself as a pragmatic socialist. I’m also a democrat. I believe in the democratic process.
That’s what’s in issue here, I feel. It’s one thing for members of SATC to not agree with UKIP, to not like UKIP, but when you start no-platforming people who are participants in the democratic process, then you not only lose the moral high ground, but the whole system fails to work.
The other aspect is the perception. UKIP will, undoubtedly, sell this with the same sense of moral outrage and martyrdom that the Green Party employed so effectively — I hear that there were several Green Party members at the SATC meeting; I do hope they didn’t vote in favour of this insanity — when they were excluded from the leaders’ debates.
And what does it say about the political left? That they are running scared of UKIP? That they don’t have faith in the power of their ideas, the offer of their policies, and the abilities of their candidates? Do they need to rig the game before it even starts?
I don’t hold with that. I am more than confident of the strength of my ideas and beliefs — and more, with my own abilities — and I will test them against any opponent who cares to debate with me. I sincerely hope there will be a hustings for Blenheim Park ward, at which all candidates can set out their stall for the electorate to make their choice.
Because that is democracy.
This is not just a bad decision by Southend Against the Cuts. This is not just a stupid decision. This is the wrong decision, and it devalues the whole debate.
*Narrow being a margin of, err, 871 votes.