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Since there appeared to be no proper public meeting to allow the general public to see and question the election candidates, we decided that as ‘Voice of the People’ it was incumbent upon us to hold one.  This was arranged for Saturday 24th April, 7.30pm at the Alexandra Theatre. Its purpose was to allow the public to quiz the candidates on local issues as affected by government policy.

All the 6 election candidates were contacted well in advance and all 6 agreed to attend.  They were Nick Gibb (Cons), Michael Jones (Lab), Simon McDougall (Lib-Dem), Douglas Denny (UKIP), Melissa Briggs (CLIP) and Andrew Moffat (BNP).  All 6 knew that all the others had been invited, and the Labour and Lib-Dem candidates asked if the BNP candidate would be attending.  They were told that he had been invited and probably would attend.  No candidate said that if the BNP were to attend they would not.


Late on Friday evening the Society’s Deputy Chairman was telephoned by Jan Cosgrove, agent for the Labour Candidate, and treated to an hour long harangue ranging from his view of the BNP to the Holocaust and the history of the Weimar Republic. All this was designed to bully us into excluding the BNP candidate. It was explained to him that we are non-political and have to be even-handed and accept all 6 candidates, regardless of his (or our) personal views. He threatened to withdraw his candidate from the meeting and was told that would have to be his own decision.

On Saturday morning he confirmed to us that his candidate had withdrawn. Late on Saturday afternoon we were informed that the Conservative Candidate had also decided to go back on his agreement to attend the meeting, the reason being Conservative policy that if the other major parties weren't sharing the platform with the BNP, they wouldn't either; in this case, of course, they had been contacted by Cosgrove and had agreed to follow his lead. Shortly afterwards we learned (indirectly, they didn't even bother to contact us direct) that the Lib-Dems were following Labour's lead as well.


This caused us some consternation and a bit of a last minute re-think! Effectively, the three parties were collectively trying to force us to their will and divert us from our principles. The other three candidates were still willing to attend and were all disgusted at the behaviour and blatant disregard of the major parties of the fact that Bognor people would be attending to seek their views. Also that they appeared to regard Party and dogma as more important than the people of Bognor Regis.

In view of their support and that of the Theatre and many others, and because we felt that Bognor people deserved such opportunities as we could give them ( and also to know the truth) we decided to continue with the meeting.

In the event the meeting went very well, about 270 people attended and asked many useful questions, major local issues were discussed and some interesting information and views emerged. There was a proposal from the floor that a "letter of rebuke" should be sent to the three candidates who did not attend. This was voted on and carried almost unanimously - just 7 against.

Subsequently we received a large number of messages and e-mails of congratulation and support for our principled stand, so we hope we did the right thing. Only one negative message was received, that being from a Lib-Dem Councillor.  No doubt there will be repercussions, and notably a number of people at the meeting said afterwards that the major parties had lost their vote.

If you have any comments or questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch - click on contact us.

To see the ‘letter of rebuke’ that was sent to the three candidates, click on rebuke.