HomeNewsElection hustings events in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge cancelled

Election hustings events in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge cancelled

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Two planned General Election hustings events in Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge have been cancelled after just three candidates agreed to take part.

Seven candidates are running to become the MP in the new Bridgwater and Burnham constituency at the General Election on July 4th.

Local community group Pride-On-Sea had announced it was holding a LGBTQIA hustings in Highbridge today (Friday) to hear from the candidates, while another group, Churches Together, was planning to hold a separate event in Burnham later in the month.

In a statement, Pride-on-Sea says: “It’s Pride month and we couldn’t be more excited that it coincided with the upcoming General Election. The seven prospective MP candidates for Bridgwater were invited to attend an LGBTQIA-led hustings. This was due to take place on Friday 21st June but only three candidates accepted our request. Sadly three didn’t and one didn’t even respond even though we offered them alternative dates.”

“At a time when views have become more polarised than ever we were so excited to engage our local community and answer the questions and issues that are important to local queer people. Unfortunately, it appears once more that the concerns of Highbridge and Burnham’s residents are being overlooked by some candidates unwilling to listen and debate their perspectives.”

“If some of our local candidates are not bothered about engaging with local people how can we expect local people to engage with politics? Luckily you can still have your say at the ballot box on 4th July.”

Churches Together in Burnham and Highbridge says it had also been trying to organise a hustings in Burnham, as they have done before at previous elections, to provide a space for the local community to meet and question the candidates. A venue, chairman and volunteers were in place. A spokesman says: “Sadly only three of the candidates were willing to attend, so the proposed event will not go ahead.”

Claire Sully, the Lib Dem candidate, says she has “agreed to attend every hustings event,” adding: “We will not run away from scrutiny. This is a dereliction of duty from the Conservative and Labour candidates who have let down communities by choosing to not be scrutinised by our electorate ahead of the general election. The Liberal Democrats are on the surge in Bridgwater, and the Tories and Labour are running scared.”

Ashley Fox, the Conservative candidate, responded: “I have agreed to participate in 3 hustings during the campaign on 20th, 21st and 27th June. The two hustings organised in Burnham clashed with other commitments and my campaign schedule is now full. I have been knocking on hundreds of doors and speaking to people across the Bridgwater and Burnham area and hope to speak to many more residents over the next two weeks about the positive plan I have for this area.”

Leigh Redman, the Labour candidate, added: “I was disappointed to not be able to attend hustings events in Burnham-On-Sea, one due to a scheduling clash with a prior engagement and the other due to having caring responsibilities for my grandson at the time the event was scheduled. On both occasions I thanked organisers for the invite and declined, I did not ‘refuse’ to attend. Due to the General Election being called with short notice, I, along with many others, am having to make difficult decisions about where to prioritise time. I am choosing to engage with voters on the doorstep, listening to their concerns and aspirations for the community face to face in a more personal way. I am juggling this campaign with usual work, council duties, caring responsibilities and day-to-day life. I have always been clear that this community is always my top concern. It is disappointing that the Liberal Democrat candidate is using the people of Burnham and Highbridge and their concerns as a political football in a bid to create unnecessary bad feeling and division. It is a shame that a candidate who has almost no chance of winning the seat would choose to sow division and negativity in a community she claims to care about this close to such an important vote.”

William Fagg, the Reform candidate, says: “I received late notice on both events which is understandable owing to my late entry to the election campaign. I replied to the LGBT group: ‘Dear Pride-on-Sea. Thank you for your invitation but regrettably have accepted another engagement and am unable to attend. However if I could send a statement and ask for it to be read out in full maybe it could in part mitigate my absence. I hope you have a great evening and your event is successful.” They replied: “Unfortunately there will be no one there able to read out your statement” and I reconfirmed that I regrettably did not have a deputy or anyone I could send in my place. For Churches Together in Burnham and Highbridge Hustings, there were four dates offered as possible for the event and I responded accepting two of these, but have subsequently heard that they have cancelled as they only had 3 candidates accepting the invitation.”

Independent Pelé Barnes said he was willing to attend the events and believed it was a mistake to cancel them.

All candidates were invited to provide responses. The candidates standing to become MP in the Bridgwater and Burnham constituency are:

  • Independent: Pelé Barnes
  • Reform UK: William Fagg
  • Conservatives: Ashley Fox
  • Green Party: Charlie Graham
  • Labour Party: Leigh Redman 
  • Liberal Democrats: Claire Sully
  • Workers Party: Gregory Tanner

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