By Calum Fraser
A by-election candidate has snubbed hustings because she refuses to share a platform with what she says is a “fascist and racist” group.
Janet Daby, the Labour candidate for the Lewisham East by-election, has spurned the election’s only hustings as the For Britain candidate, Anne-Marie Waters, will be on the stage as well.
Ms Daby said: “I do not want to share a platform with a fascist or a racist political group.”
She was backed up by Jeremy Corbyn who was in Blackheath on Thursday.
The leader of the Labour party said: “I absolutely support Janet’s decision. It is in line with the national Party policy. We do not share platforms with people who espouse racist abuse of any sort. We do not share platforms with them, end of.
“If there was no extremists on the platform, we would be there. There is, so we’re not going to be there.”
In a follow up statement from the Labour party group, a spokesman said: “Janet will not share a platform with the far right parties who have been invited.
“She urges the organisers not to provide them with this platform, and urges fellow candidates not to give these far right groups the oxygen of publicity by appearing with them on this platform.”
But organisers of the hustings, due to be held on Tuesday in Catford, have criticised Ms Daby’s comments.
They had offered to hold the election on either Tuesday June 5 or today, Tuesday June 12.
They say that they were told Ms Daby could not attend due to diary commitments.
John Hamilton, a volunteer from the Open Democracy group who are organising the hustings, said: “I feel this racism issue is being used as a last minute excuse to not appear in front of the electorate.
“To claim that a full diary, prevents her from attending, is to show a disdain for voters who may not have had the good fortune of her happening to knock on their door.
“All in all, it appears that Labour does not want to take part in this part of the democratic process.
“It also wants to deprive voters of the chance to hear other candidates and is going to extraordinary lengths to prevent the hustings from happening.”
Ms Waters, who was originally a member of the Labour party, stood for UKIP in the general election in Lewisham East in 2015, coming third with 9.1 per cent of the vote.
Ms Waters helped set up the UK branch of the anti-Islam group Pegida with Tommy Robinson.
Pegida is an abbreviation of from a German group, which translates to Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West.
Ms Waters said: “I have never been involved in or promoted violence or racism and I never will. If these so-called “anti-fascist” groups were actually anti-fascist, they would promote democratic debate instead of no-platforming.
“That they want to prevent me speaking is proof that they cannot defeat me by legitimate democratic means.
“Instead of facing me as an MP should be expected to, Daby has decided to play the victim and virtue-signal card.”
Conservative candidate Ross Archer, has also snubbed the hustings due to diary commitments.
Mandu Reid, Women’s Equality Party candidate for Lewisham East, said: “Racism must be confronted, challenged and defeated, along with its counterparts Islamophobia, misogyny and homophobia. There is no space in Lewisham for these abhorrent views, as our community has demonstrated repeatedly over the years – from taking on the National Front in the 1970s to the anti-Islamophobia rally this weekend.
“The way to defeat these views is to show them up for what they are: ugly, small, incoherent and based on fear. That is what I will do at the hustings tomorrow.
“Labour have appeared at debates with far-right candidates in Lewisham before – Heidi Alexander did so in 2015 – so perhaps there’s another reason why they’ve chosen not to engage this time? Whatever their reasons, I think it’s wrong to let parties that spew bile and hatred and seek to divide us dictate how we practice democracy in Lewisham East.
“Since this campaign began, I have called out sexism in Labour, I have called out the appalling racism on Ukip’s leaflets, and tomorrow I will call out the hate being peddled by other candidates in this election. Because politics should be about social justice.”
The Lewisham East by-election was triggered by Heidi Alexander’s resignation last month, to join London Mayor Sadiq Khan at City Hall as deputy mayor of Transport.
Voters will go to the polls on June 14.