SIR JOHN Redwood’s decision not to take part in a hustings in Wokingham next week has been criticised by other parties standing for election.
And there has also been anger over comments made on social media that Bracknell residents would be bused to the hustings, something that the poster said was a joke.
The political veteran is declining to attend the December 6 event – organised by Churches Together in Wokingham – because the Green party and Advance Together candidates were unable to attend. He said that he would be happy to rearrange his diary to attend a date the other four candidates could all agree on.
However, with the general election now just 12 days away and suitable venues booked up for Christmas events such as carol concerts and school plays, the chances of finding an alternative date and venue at short notice is incredibly unlikely.
In a statement, the organisers from Churches Together said: “We’re really disappointed that Sir John Redwood has decided that he will not come to the hustings.
“Both Dr Phillip Lee (Lib Dem) and Dr Annette Medhurst (Labour) have confirmed that they are happy to attend. We will still hold the Hustings event with the candidates who have chosen to attend.”
Yesterday, there was a debate on Facebook’s Wokingham Residents’ page over whether Sir John would be attending the debate.
During the discussions, one person said that 50 people from Bracknell would be coming ‘since they hadn’t seen there (sic) ex mp in years’. The Wokingham Paper understands that this was intended to be a joke and further down the discussion, it was clarified as ‘nothing has been arranged or organised’.
Ian Collard, campaign manager for Dr Phillip Lee, said: “Quite frankly, I am not surprised. We were aware that Sir John Redwood was reluctant to take part in these hustings.
“The Conservatives plan to bus people in from Bracknell was clearly designed to reduce the number of Wokingham voters who would be able to attend. However, with that ruse rumbled, it appears that they have decided to attempt to bring down the hustings altogether.
“This shows complete disrespect to the people of the Wokingham constituency.
“We have advised Churches Together that we are more than happy to proceed and hold the hustings with just Phillip and the Labour candidate.”
Dr Medhurst said: “I am really disappointed that the residents of Wokingham won’t have the opportunity to challenge and scrutinise the views of all candidates. However, I am keen to attend, and look forward to being able to share Labour’s plans for the country.”
However, Sir John defended his stance.
He told The Wokingham Paper: “Our residents deserve to hear the views of everyone who is asking for their vote. In the interests of every Wokingham resident, I challenge all four of my opponents to join me at a public debate. I will rearrange my diary to be there if they all have the courage to face me.”
And he went further, recording a short video as part of his Ask John series.
We have linked to it above. In it, he said: “I’ve always undertaken debates in elections before, I think elections are about debates…
“…I do think it’s very important that any debate should have all the candidates so that we could hear a whole range of arguments.
“How can I set out my green case properly for example if the Green party isn’t represented?”
The Wokingham Paper has made numerous attempts to contact the Advance Together candidate Annabel Mullin over the past few weeks, but she has not responded to any requests sent.
She has, however, tweeted on Sir John’s decision not to attend the hustings, which was triggered by her decision not to attend.
The Churches Together in Wokingham general election debate will take place from 7.30pm at Wokingham Baptist Church in Milton Road. Confirmed attendees are Dr Phillip Lee for the Lib Dems and Dr Annette Medhurst for Labour.