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Annunziata Rees-Mogg Refuses to Debate Climate Change at Castle Cary Hustings

Friday 30 April 2010, 14:11
By John Baxter

After the excitement of the Wincanton Hustings I decided to go over to Castle Carey on the 27th to attend the hustings at the Ansford Hall. This was organised jointly by Castle Cary Christian Aid group and the Castle Cary Use Less - Share More group. I had seen the quarter page advert for the hustings in the Gazette and understood that the focus was to ask candidates "the Climate Change Question". In other words explore the views of all candidates on this very important issue. I turned up to find a full hall containing about 120 people who were all, like me, expecting to hear the two main candidates, David Heath for the Liberal Democrats and Annunziata Rees-Mogg for the Conservatives. Also taking part was the Labour Candidate David Oakensen, UKIP candidate Barry Harding and Independent Nial Warrey. To the surprise and amazement of us all we learnt that it had been decided by the Conservatives that Annunziata Rees-Mogg should not attend.

The hustings had been carefully planned to facilitate questions from the audience and was chaired by the Head of Ansford School, Robert Benzie and quite a few school students had come. Naturally everyone wanted to know why Annunziata Rees-Mogg was not there and when questioned from the floor the organiser of the evening, Dr Elizabeth Perry, told us.

She explained that Annunziata had first been told about the hustings in January. In March this was followed up with an invitation suggesting possible dates, but she received no reply so she followed this up with an email a couple of days later. She then received an email declining the invitation. Subsequently on several occasions Elizabeth Perry wrote to Annunziata renewing the invitation and even offering her the choice of a convenient date. Strangely, on no occasion did she receive a personal reply, always an email from the Conservative campaign chairman Peter Wright or agent Mark Merchant.

Despite further entreaties to get her to change her mind, on the 21st April Peter Wright sent an email which said that "we cannot do this event" because "Annunziata has decided to meet more voters on the doorstep and concentrate on their individual concerns on the economy, jobs, the NHS and rural services - although climate change, energy security and sustainability have been mentioned from time to time."

When Elizabeth read this out in the Caryford Hall the idea that Annunziata was too busy knocking on doors between 7.30pm and 9pm at night to come to the hustings and that by doing so she would be able "to meet more voters" was met with general amazement and not a little anger. I also heard several people asking if this is the way local constituents can expect to be treated in the event of a Conservative victory.

Please tell us what you think - post your comments below.

John Baxter


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