Tories avoid student hustings

Conservative candidates from both Oxford constituencies failed to attend hustings at Wadham, Wolfson and St Hugh’s colleges.

Ed Argar, the Conservative candidate for Oxford East, e-mailed OUSU Women’s Officer Yuan Yang at 11.00 AM on Monday to pull out of that evening’s hustings at Wadham, citing “another engagement.”

Yang said: “This sudden withdrawal reflected a  lack of respect towards politically engaged, voting students.”

Nicola Blackwood, the Conservative candidate for Oxford West and Abingdon, missed hustings on Sunday evening organised by the St. Hugh’s JCR President, as well as at hustings on Tuesday evening at Wolfson College.

First-time Labour candidate Richard Stevens, incumbent Lib Dem Evan Harris and Green Party candidate Chris Goodall attended both the St Hugh’s and Wolfson hustings.

Wolfson organisers said they provided ten days’ notice for the hustings, but Blackwood did not respond to the invitation until the day before, when the chair told her of the candidates who had confirmed their attendance.

Blackwood said she could not attend the hustings because of a different public meeting. Her deputy was also unable to make the event.

Blackwood also missed the St Hugh’s hustings, though the event was arranged at relatively short notice.

St. Hugh’s JCR President, Liam O’Connor, said:  “[Nicola Blackwood] informed me she could not make the event or find anyone to attend in her stead, but told me she was happy for hustings to go on regardless.”

Goodall, the Green candidate, said Blackwood’s absence at the student hustings “looks like a capitulation…she’s letting down democracy.”

A press officer for the Conservatives said Blackwood had attended many hustings in businesses, churches and schools, but missed the student hustings in question because they were “organised at the last minute”.

Some candidates are extremely keen to speak to students.

Julia Gasper, the UK Independence Party candidate for Oxford East, sent the Oxford Brookes Student Union’s President an e-mail expressing her displeasure at not being invited to speak at Oxford Brookes along with Nick Clegg last week.

She said of the exclusion of UKIP: “That is biassed [sic] and I believe it is illegal.”

She told the President: “Clegg is a crook and a sham…If you have any concern for the values of freedom of speech and fair elections, you will invite me to speak to Brookes before the election.”

The Oxford Union did invite Gasper to its hustings last week.