The hosts of a public political debate have denied responsibility for distributing anti-UKIP leaflets branding the controversial party “racist” at its meeting.
The Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS), which insists it is non-political, claimed it had no idea who handed out the publicity material at the first of its four public Q&As, organised in the run up to May’s local elections.
Barnet’s UKIP representative Adrian Murray-Leonard had been denied a place on last night’s political panel because BAPS said it disagreed with his party’s “racist” policies.
BAPS later clarified its stance and said Mr Murray-Leonard was welcome to attend the meeting as a member of the public, and that he had been denied a place on the panel because the party was not active enough, not because it disagreed with its politics.
But at the meeting, held in The Larches hall in Rectory Lane, Edgware, leaflets were handed out that read “Don’t be fooled by UKIP” and described the party as one that is “racist, right wing and loves the rich”.
Mr Murray-Leonard disrupted the start of the meeting for several minutes in protest at his ban from the panel, as he had earlier promised to do, and he was heckled by the audience as he angrily labelled the debate “a joke” and “undemocratic”.
(Warning - this video contains some bad language)
The UKIP member said he was surprised to see the leaflets being distributed and did not regret making a scene.
He said: “I don’t regret it at all. I was there to do what I said I would do – I was never going to back down.
“I was surprised I stayed there for as long as I did. The whole thing was totally biased and undemocratic. I don’t blame the Tories for not turning up – they would have got the same treatment.
“I was surprised to see the leaflets there though. To say we are racist is hilarious and ridiculous.”
BAPS representative Tirza Waisel said today that anyone from any political persuasion was entitled to hand out leaflets at the meeting and denied the publicity material was in any way connected to her organisation.
She said: “They were information leaflets answering the claims and policies of UKIP - I don’t know who distributed them. There were other leaflets being handed out from other political parties as well.”
“I don’t think the outburst disrupted the meeting. There were other UKIP members in the audience who remained quiet. He was ejected because he was disrupting the meeting, not because he represented UKIP.”
The Conservatives declined to send a representative to the six-person panel, which contained two elected councillors from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, a council candidate from the Green Party, a left-wing blogger and BAPS chairman Barbara Jacobson.
The Conservative reportedly said they felt the meeting and audience would be anti-Tory.
Ms Waisel said: “They have shot themselves in the foot. We are not anti-Tory – we are simply dedicated to reversing the One Barnet outsourcing programme.
“It seems they don’t have the courage to face the residents who will elect them and that is a shame. We hope they will send someone to the next three meetings.”