Black politician refuses to share hustings with BNP
The West's most prominent black would-be MP has refused to share a debating stage with his rival from the British National Party, to avoid race becoming an issue at the election.
Wilfred Emmanuel Jones told the organisers of tonight's hustings event in Bradford on Avon he would boycott the event if BNP candidate Michael Simpkins was allowed to take part.
So the organisers, the town's Senior Citizens' Forum, decided to bar the BNP man.
Mr Emmanuel Jones, who runs a food-producing business called The Black Farmer, is standing for the Conservatives in the new Chippenham seat, which promises to be a key marginal battle between the Tories and the Lib Dems.
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Mr Simpkins is one of the handful of BNP councillors in the West and his appointment to Corsham town council after no one stood against him in a by-election sparked a major demonstration by anti-racism campaigners and locals.
Hustings organiser Alan Knight told Mr Simpkins that every other candidate had agreed to take part in the debate if the BNP were included, except Mr Emmanuel Jones.
Mr Simpkins said Mr Emmanuel Jones was running scared.
"I am very disappointed with the outcome but thank the committee and other candidates for at least being prepared to allow me to join in the debate," said Mr Simpkins.
"Emmanuel Jones claims to be proud to be British but has yet to learn the British sense of fair play. The man is a coward and is obviously scared to debate the real issues that are affecting this country."
Chippenham's Liberal Democrat candidate Duncan Hames said the BNP's policies were 'disgusting' but that he wanted the opportunity to 'demolish' them.
"I'm not afraid of the BNP and would relish the opportunity to confront them and demolish their arguments," he said.
"None of us like the BNP and find much of what they say disgusting but it is important that our own feelings do not deny the public the chance to question the candidates."
A spokeswoman for the local Tory association backed its candidate's refusal to take part.
"The Chippenham Conservative Association has a clear position that it does not wish to give legitimacy to a political party which promotes intolerant and racist views that to most people in Wiltshire, including ourselves, are unacceptable.
"Wilfred is quite prepared to debate with the mainstream parties and answer questions from local residents which he will do."