EXCL Labour candidate snubs by-election hustings over Anne Marie Waters appearance
A Labour candidate has refused to take part in a by-election hustings after far-right campaigner Anne Marie Waters signed up to take part.
Janet Daby does not want to give the For Britain politician - who has caused controversy with her views on Islam - "the oxygen of publicity" by sharing a platform with her.
But her decision has sparked an angry response from other parties standing in this month's Lewisham East by-election, who say she should show “solidarity in the face of intolerance”.
The hustings - organised by campaign group Bring Back Democracy at the Salvation Army Hall in Catford - takes place on Tuesday and is the only such event before voters go to the polls on Thursday.
Far-right activist Ms Waters - formerly of Labour and then Ukip - is an avowed eurosceptic who campaigns against Islam and includes controversial English Defence League co-founder Tommy Robinson among her allies.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Janet's diary is now full and she is spending her time prioritising speaking to hundreds of voters directly on the doorstep.
“Janet will not share a platform with the far-right parties who have been invited, urges the organisers not to provide them with this platform, and urges fellow candidates not to give these far right groups the oxygen of publicity by appearing with them on this platform.”
But rival parties accused Ms Daby, who is the clear favourite to win the by-election, of using the row as an excuse to avoid scrutiny.
Liberal Democrat candidate Lucy Salek told PoliticsHome she would attend the hustings to “stand strong against any candidate that espouses intolerant views”.
“The people of Lewisham have the right to hear from those who seek to serve the community on key issues like Labour’s failing schools and rising violent crime,” she said.
“I hope all mainstream parties will stand with me in front of our community showing solidarity in the face of intolerance.”
Ms Salek added: “The Tories and Labour have a duty to answer the questions of voters, it is central to our democratic process. There is still time and I hope both parties change course and attend the hustings."
Women's Equality Party candidate Mandu Reid told PoliticsHome: "Racism must be confronted, challenged and defeated, along with its counterparts Islamophobia, misogyny and homophobia.
"The way to defeat these views is to show them up for what they are: ugly, small, incoherent and based on fear. That is what I will do at the hustings."
Ukip candidate David Kurten said Ms Daby’s decision not to attend the event was “nonsense”.
“I would challenge her to name one policy or statement I have made which is ‘far-right’,” he said. “She is unlikely to answer because she wouldn’t be able to – there are none.”
The Tories meanwhile told the organisers their candidate Ross Archer would be unable to attend due to a diary clash.
'CANCEL THE EVENT'
Meanwhile, anti-racism campaigners have demanded the event be cancelled and for the Lib Dems and Green party to join the Tories and Labour in refusing to attend.
In a statement on its website, the Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group said: “We call on organisers of Bring Back Democracy and the Salvation Army to cancel the event for reasons of community, safety and so as not to host a far right rally.”
Organiser of the event John Hamilton said on Facebook: “Of course people are free to demonstrate outside against any candidate but to put pressure on candidates to withdraw or on the Salvation Army to cancel the use of the hall seems a very undemocratic move by Labour supporters.”
The seat became vacant after former Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander quit as MP to take a job at City Hall for Labour mayor Sadiq Khan
Ms Waters and the Green party failed to respond to PoliticsHome by the time of publication.