Local MP says postponement of UEA union UKIP event means “the opportunity to challenge UKIP is lost”

Simon Wright

Simon Wright - Credit: Archant copyright 2011

Students at the University of East Anglia have lost an opportunity to challenge the UK Independence Party, a city MP has said.

Simon Wright joined the row about whether or not the party should have been allowed a platform at the University of East Anglia after a debate which was due to be held on the campus was postponed.

He said: 'Representatives from all political parties should be treated equally fairly. I disagree with UKIP on many issues, but they nonetheless should have the same right as anyone else to voice their views, and crucially to allow students to scrutinise their policies. By denying the opportunity for debate, the opportunity to challenge UKIP is lost.'

A Labour candidate also backed the UK Independence Party's right to be heard at the university,

Jessica Asato, who is standing against Chloe Smith in Norwich North, said: 'I am obviously entirely opposed to what they stand for, but I think they have a right to be heard, and also for those of us who disagree with them to put forward our views and have that debate.'

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An event, which was due to be held at the Norfolk university's campus last night, was postponed by the union as it said the procedures to approve external speakers had not been followed.

In a statement they said that they were carrying out a review, and they would decide if the event would be rescheduled.

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Students set up a petition, which collected more than 1,000 signataries in 24 hours, calling for the party to be barred from the campus.

Norwich South Labour candidate Clive Lewis said the union was there to represent the interests of the students.

'They had 1,000 students who had signed the petition to say they felt unsafe. All the UEA union was doing was making sure their students felt safe. I think that is perfectly acceptable.'

But he said he was not in favour of banning UKIP.

'They have never advocated anything other than using the democratic system. As obnoxious and offensive as I find their views, and their member's views - whether it is about gay marriage and some who have racist views - I feel they are a legitimate political party.'

UKIP's Norwich South Branch chairman, Eric Masters, said that the 'abrupt cancellation', almost at the eleventh hour on 'procedural grounds,' suggested that it was a reaction to lobbying from some members of the Students Union, including the publication of a 'potentially libellous petition'.

'If true, it amounts to the worst kind of political censorship.'

He said: 'Our door remains open. If the political society can sort out the internal issues at UEA, we are still willing to go along and speak to the students, so they can make up their own minds about us. However, if that doesn't happen, it is pretty clear that censorship is alive and well at UEA and that its students are being prevented from obtaining a balanced understanding of mainstream British politics.'

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