Conservatives defend boycott of Adur elections hustings

Kevin Jenkins, chairman of East Worthing and Shoreham Conservative Association
Kevin Jenkins, chairman of East Worthing and Shoreham Conservative Association

Adur Conservatives have penned an open letter explaining why their election candidates will not be attending hustings events this month.

The Shoreham Society has arranged three hustings, focusing on six wards in Shoreham and Lancing.

But the Conservative Party will not be a feature at the events, arguing it was not ‘in the interests of the wider aims of democracy’ to narrow debates to a proportion of wards.

An open letter from Kevin Jenkins, chairman of East Worthing and Shoreham Conservative Association, said: “I am grateful that you have given consideration and action to arranging a number of limited ‘hustings’ for Adur as a whole; however I am concerned that your selected areas of geographical interest, as well as the potential subjects you mention on your website, may not accurately reflect the wider questions and issues for debate that a larger number of residents Adur may hold.

“In consideration we do not believe that it is in the interests of the wider aims of democracy to narrow your proposed hustings to these three clusters of wards. It risks other residents, in areas not named by you, feeling excluded and that any questions they have are of secondary importance.”

The first meeting on Thursday (April 19), will be held at St Peter’s Church Hall, in West Street, Shoreham, will focus on St Mary’s and St Nicholas wards.

Next Wednesday (April 25) will give electors in Churchill and Widewater wards, in Lancing, the chance to quiz hopefuls at Lancing Parish Hall.

The final event next Monday (April 30) in the Garden Room, Southwick Community Centre, will be based on Southwick Green and Eastbrook.

Mr Jenkins said Tory candidates were working hard in their wards, meeting people in the street and at their homes.

He said: “This is providing a personal one-to one-contact that many value, especially as not all will be able to attend a hustings. Our programme of campaigning is active and targeted at providing an ear to the voice of people in Adur, to listen to their questions and to answer them honestly and openly.

“As you will be aware we have been holding a series of street surgeries across the district for the last 15 years where our councillors regularly make themselves available to the public, to offer advice or to be scrutinised on a particular matter. This has proved very successful.”

Tory candidates will be holding a ‘drop-in’ session at the Café Room, in the Shoreham Centre, Pond Road, next Thursday (April 26) between 5.45pm and 6.45pm.

Responding to the letter, society vice-chairman Jenny Towler said the decision was ‘disappointing and puzzling’.

She said: “The wards we selected were a ‘pan-Adur approach’ covering Shoreham, Lancing and Southwick and Fishersgate to achieve the widest catchment.

“The aim for Shoreham Society is to raise the vote across Adur from 33 per cent and to ask the community to engage with the candidates.

“At the hustings event in Shoreham last Thursday (19 April) it was disappointing to have a dearth of candidates but the two candidates who did make it and a current sitting councillor made for an interesting and informative discussion with those members of the public who attended. It was also a good example of two parties supporting the democratic process and openly discussing how they would work together.”