Party highlights electoral rules in protest to debate organisers.
BRIGHTON Liberal Democrats have written to Defend the NHS campaign asking why they have been excluded from a series of debates in Brighton and Hove on ‘saving the NHS’.
Sussex Defend the NHS is organising a series of what it calls People’s Debates under the heading Save the NHS. The first one took place in Hove last month, one is scheduled in Pavilion constituency for March 24, and a third in Kemptown for April 9.
However, despite being a party of government which played an important role in the 2010-11 NHS reforms, the Lib Dems have not been asked to take part with Sussex Defend the NHS even advertising the Pavilion debate on its website with the words, “Your chance to question parliamentary candidates: Caroline Lucas (MP, Green), Clarence Mitchell (Con) and Purna Sen (Lab) with speakers from Defend the NHS.”
In a letter to Sussex Defend the NHS, Brighton & Hove Lib Dems’ chair Paul Chandler, who’s also the party’s parliamentary candidate in Kemptown, attacks the campaign’s decision to exclude the Lib Dems.
Chandler wrote: “We find this very surprising, especially as in government it was Liberal Democrats who stopped Conservative privatisation plans and reversed some of Labour’s policies which meant private health companies got special favours.”
He has also drawn the campaign’s attention to the Electoral Commission’s guidance on hustings during the general election period. This says that if the organisers of hustings “selectively invite candidates or parties to your hustings and do not have impartial reasons for doing so” then there are implications for the parties that are invited in terms of declaring their election expenses.
Chandler goes on to ask Sussex Defend the NHS whether it has made the three parties it has invited aware of this regulation.
The Lib Dems’ candidate for Brighton Pavilion, Chris Bowers, said: “On a day when David Cameron has shown his contempt for democracy by saying he is effectively above television debates, it looks very bad for a campaign that has broad support to be excluding the party that put the brakes on the Conservatives’ plans for the NHS in the coalition negotiations that took place in the first year of this Parliament.
“Some of the damage done to the NHS by successive governments in recent years cannot be undone, but Defend the NHS can undo the damage it has caused by inviting the Lib Dems and Ukip to its Pavilion hustings March 24. I hope they are big enough to do so, as we wish their campaign well.”
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