17 February 2017
On 29th March, Citizens UK will be holding a hustings for the West Midlands mayoral election, where they want their 1,000 delegates to be able to meet the potential mayors.
But - the 1,000 delegates aren't being allowed to meet the Green Party candidate James Burn. Citizens UK have decided to shut us out, along with the Lib Dem and Ukip candidates.
The BBC found this as shocking and hard to understand as we do, and featured the issue on BBC WM this week.
Notice how the chair of Citizens UK Birmingham admits that they are unfairly excluding the Green Party and other candidates, at around the 6:15 mark:
After all, the Green Party finished third in last year's London Mayoral Election and the London Mayoral Election before that. The Green Party is the official opposition on one of the West Midlands Combined Authority's councils (Solihull), where our mayor candidate James Burn is the Leader of the Opposition.
It is accepted by broadcasters in the UK now that the Green Party is one of the major political parties and we have been invited to every hustings event in this campaign so far - with the exception of the Citizens UK event.
In an ironic twist, Citizens UK even used the Green Party candidate James Burn as part of the promotion for their event held on 19th November 2016! And, as Leader of the Opposition on one of the constituent councils of the West Midlands Combined Authority and as a regular on regional TV and radio shows, James arguably has at least a comparable profile to an MEP and a newcomer to politics.
So, excluding the Greens, Lib Dems and Ukip is bizarre at best.
We have tried to contact Citizens UK to have that discussion with them. First off, they ignored our emails.
Now they are claiming their event is not a hustings, but a "private event" that the public can't come to.
This simply isn't true. Tickets to this "private event" are freely available to the public - get yours at the events ticketing page. And calling a hustings a "private event" doesn't make it less of a hustings, just like calling a lion "a hamster" would make it any less likely to eat you.
And even if it were a "private event", surely a grass-roots organisation who claims to welcome diversity and to speak up for the most disadvantaged should be inviting first the one candidate who is young, and who lives in, works in and represents a disadvantaged area, not shutting him out - private event or not. James has consistently spoken out about the need for democracy, transparency, involving more people (particularly unions, faith groups, community groups and normal people) in the West Midlands Combined Authority, and for the need for more action to help the least well-off areas. All things we'd expect Citizens UK to want to hear about.
We complained to the board of Citizens UK about their unfair exclusion of us and UKIP - and can you believe their response? After originally inviting the Liberal Democrat Beverley Nielsen... they un-invited her! This is a completely unfair and backwards way to deal with things - and shows how much they seem determined to make the mayor contest a two horse race between Labour and the Tories.
We don't know what's going on at Citizens UK and we really didn't want to have to protest. But we feel we have no option now.