A PARLIAMENTARY candidate has hit back at being described as a David Cameron tribute act over his no-show at a South Tyneside political hustings.
The UK Independence Party’s Steve Harrison was the only borough candidate standing at next month’s general election not to attend debates held at the weekend.
On Sunday, about 60 members of the public were at St Matthew’s Church in Jarrow to hear from the six people fighting it out to become the town’s MP.
And on Monday, an estimated 100 people turned out at the Living Waters Church in Laygate to see the six candidates in South Shields put forward their credentials for the job.
The debates, organised by Churches Together in South Tyneside, have been hailed as a great success.
But the failure of Mr Harrison to attend the Jarrow meeting prompted a gentle rebuke on Twitter by Kevin Maguire, South Shields-born associate editor of the Daily Mirror and a Sky TV contributor.
In reference to Prime Minister David Cameron’s failure to show up for the last national TV debate this month, he tweeted: “Ukip’s candidate only one not at last night’s Churches Together hustings. His David Cameron tribute?”
That comparison has been rejected by Mr Harrison.
He said he had only been made aware of the event late last week, by which time, he already had another engagement lined up.
Mr Harrison, also standing as a councillor in Jarrow’s Monkton ward, said: “I’m not going to pay any attention to a journalist just because he thinks he’s the bee’s knees on Sky TV and who sees Labour through rose-tinted glasses.
“I only learned about this debate on Thursday, and by that time, I had other arrangements. It appears that my invitation had been sent to the wrong e-mail address.
“I did eventually get in touch with the organisers, and I passed on a speech to be read out at the meeting and details of my e-mail address so people could contact me.”
Hilary Thompson, secretary of Churches Together in South Tyneside, said: “For whatever reason, the e-mail I first sent to Mr Harrison on March 29 did not get through, and I did try another official Ukip address, which didn’t appear to bounce back.
“Despite that mix-up, I felt both debates were very positive, and we received good feedback from both the candidates and the audience.”
The debates were staged after the Church of England called for our political parties to offer “a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be” ahead of the general election.
The candidates in South Shields are Emma Lewell-Buck (Labour), Gita Gordon (Liberal Democrat), Shirley Ford (Green Party), Lisa Nightingale (Independent), Robert Oliver (Conservative) and Norman Dennis (Ukip).
Also standing in Jarrow are Stephen Hepburn (Labour), Stan Collins (Liberal Democrat), Norman Hall (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), Nick Mason (Conservative), David Herbert (Green Party).