Barnet and Hendon’s branch of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) has labelled its exclusion from a public political debate as “undemocratic and crass”.
The right-wing party was excluded from the public meeting, initially billed as a hustings, organised by left-wing campaign group the Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS).
The meeting, due to take place next Wednesday, January 22, in The Larches, Edgware, includes a panel made up of political candidates and councillors, invites for which were sent to Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party and the Green Party.
BAPS member Phil Fletcher yesterday said the meeting’s committee had made a “democratic decision” not to allow the party on the panel because they disagreed with its “racist” immigration policies.
He later clarified his stance, saying he believes “immigration is an issue that is used as a smokescreen for other more pressing issues that affect society”.
But Adrian Murray-Leonard, vice-chairman of the Barnet and Hendon UKIP branch and prospective candidate for Hendon, said in response today: “It is undemocratic and absolutely crass. It devalues the meeting and devalues politics in general.
“I suggest he (Mr Fletcher) invests in an Oxford English Dictionary and looks up what the word democracy means because clearly he doesn’t know.
“We are a political branch and we should be on the panel. They said they didn’t think it was suitable because they consider us a one-policy party – it is nonsensical.
“We’re not anti-immigration and we’re certainly not racist. We are against the open door policy allowing EU migrants to come here and claim benefits.”
BAPS revealed today it has written to UKIP leader Nigel Farage, via the party’s official website, to complain about Mr Adrian-Leonard’s declaration that he and his supporters would “crash” the meeting.
Representative Tirza Waisel today said the committee had declined UKIP’s request to place a representative on the panel because they had not campaigned strongly enough on local issues.
She also claimed the committee had turned down a similar request from the left-wing Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) on the same grounds.
She said of UKIP: “They have no policies on the local issues we’re campaigning on. We haven’t seen them around and we don’t know if they have any views on the issues, so they can’t be on the panel.
“We recognise they are a political party, but not in Barnet – they haven’t been players on the Barnet field.
“They haven’t been active enough on local issues. If they have something relevant to say on privatisation of public services, they are welcome to come to the meeting and ask questions to the panellists.”
But Mr Adrian-Leonard said it was unfair to pin the party down on its lack of campaigning.
He said: “We only formed in September so we’re a relatively new branch. We’re certainly working on local policies and when we get our candidates in place we will begin campaigning.”
Mr Adrian-Leonard said this week he and his party members intended to “crash” the meeting – though today told this newspaper he is not planning to attend at all.
Ms Waisel said: “What we will not put up with is a threat – and that was a threat. If they agree that public services need protecting, then they are welcome at the meeting.
“It is not up to us to give them a platform to make their views known. If they have something to say then they should say it.”