Of the six minority candidates standing for election as London mayor, only the one standing on an explicitly Christian ticket has been invited to attend the main hustings event for churches in central London.
The event, at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, is being sponsored by the Evangelical Alliance and Premier Christian Radio.
Hundreds of London churches, across traditions and denominations, have been invited to attend. However, according to a press release issued by the Evangelical Alliance, of the ten candidates standing for London mayor, only the four main candidates, plus the one minority candidate standing on an explicitly Christian ticket, have been asked to answer questions.
Labour candidate Ken Livingstone, Conservative Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick, and Sian Berry of the Green Party, whose parties all have seats on the London Assembly, will come to the event. But, according to the press release, of the other minority parties only Alan Craig from Christian Choice has been sent an invitation. Gerard Batten (UKIP) Lindsey German (Left List party) Matt O'Connor (English Democrats) Richard Barnbrook (BNP) and Winston McKenzie (Independent) have not been invited.
The move follows allegations by the Christian Choice candidate Alan Craig, that his party had been marginalised by others in previous London elections. However, the latest move will invite questions about whether he is in fact receiving more favourable treatment.
Alan Craig told Ekklesia that he believed that all the candidates should be able to attend such events and speak from the platform. He added that a Christian appraoch demanded that smaller parties in any election should never be marginalised. "I believe in an open, level playing field democracy where all the candidates are invited to election hustings" he said.
But Miles Giljam, Head of Communications for the Evangelical Alliance, said: “Hustings organisers are often selective about whom they invite to their event, with a number this year – including CBI, Green Alliance and the housing hustings – only featuring three or four of the principal candidates.
“As ours is a Christian event, we thought it appropriate to invite Christian Choice as well, but limited our invitations further because it is practically unmanageable to include more candidates in such a short space of time. Other candidates are welcome to attend and ask questions from the floor.”
Gareth Wallace, Parliamentary Officer for the Evangelical Alliance said: “The churches have held a major hustings event for both the two previous London mayoral elections.
“This is a once in a four-year opportunity to hold those running for leadership of this great city to account and hear them speak about their vision for the future, live and unedited.”
Nick Holtam, vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, said: “Christians are at the heart of every community in London.
“They can see first-hand, through the work they do in churches and on the streets, the impact of mayoral policy on everything from the environment to young people and the poor.
“So the candidates can expect some challenging and exciting questions on Wednesday as these citizens consider who to trust with our city.”
The event takes place next Wednesday 23rd April. Doors open at 5pm. The event will run from 6pm to 8pm, admission is free and no booking is necessary.