In his letter last week, ‘Panel correction’, Dr Carl Walker seems to be suggesting that as he was ‘a known candidate’ at the time when it was decided to hold an Election Special of our Tackle the Issues series of panel debates, this calls into question the reason for declining his request to join the panel.
He has also suggested (in an earlier email to me) that Tim Loughton’s ‘clear links’ with Ropetackle ‘are key in this decision’. Tim Loughton was my predecessor as Ropetackle chairman.
However, as I have made clear to Dr Walker, he has had no involvement in the management of the centre since I took over from him five years ago, and had no say in the decision relating to Dr Walker.
As I have also made clear to Dr Walker, and as has been reported in this paper, when we decided to hold the Election Special, we had to decide whether to limit the number of participants.
At the time we did not know that Dr Walker was a candidate, and had we known, this would not have affected our decision. Our concern was that increasing the panel from its previous number (four) might result in a less effective debate.
Having consulted the Electoral Commission, we were told that limiting the size of the panel was a valid reason for declining to invite all candidates to participate.
Despite the fact that it would increase the panel to five, we therefore decided to invite representatives of parties with at least one current MP, this also being acceptable to the commission.
Having informed Dr Walker of the commission’s response, I am surprised at his continued criticism. I did invite him to attend the event and I assured him that if he wished to put a question to the panel, he would be given the opportunity to reply. He declined this invitation on the basis that ‘this devalues my candidacy and the party that I represent’.
I can only reiterate that the decision not to invite him to join the panel was taken for entirely non political reasons, to try to ensure that the panel is able to address as many issues as possible.
Tackle the Issues – Election Special will be at Ropetackle on April 21 (tickets – www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk). The panel will comprise the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP candidates for East Worthing and Shoreham, and will be chaired by Simon Fanshawe.
Martin Allen, chairman
The Ropetackle Trust
Little High Street
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