Conservative Parliamentary candidate Wilfred Emmanuel Jones is at the centre of a row in his local Chippenham constituency after he refused to share a platform with a British National Party candidate at a church event.
Emmanuel Jones, also known as the Black Farmer after his brand of sausages, meats and condiments, refused to take part in a hustings event organised by the Melksham Family of Churches on Sunday 25 April, if he was to share the platform with BNP candidate Michael Simpkins.
He told OBV: “My position has always been that I will not share a platform with the BNP. That has been my position ever since I was selected as a candidate 4 years ago, and I made that very clear to the organisers of the hustings.”
However Emmanuel Jones’ refusal to participate did not go down well with the local organisers and the far right BNP have sought to gain political mileage from the row.
He explained: “Melksham Council of Churches wanted all the candidates to take part in the event. I’m happy for them to invite who they like, I just won’t attend.”
“I spoke to the Labour and the LibDem candidate and said if I appear on a platform with the BNP they will use it as propaganda. The BNP doesn’t have a mandate in this constituency. What would be better is if we agree not to share a platform with the BNP. The Labour candidate saw my predicament but the LibDem candidate refused to do that. My view is that he was trying to get political mileage out of it by saying he was not going to dictate to the organisers about who they can invite.”
He added: “A number of organisations have taken this position [not to share a platform with the BNP] as a matter of principle, however it seems this council of churches doesn’t see that this is at odds with what Christianity is all about.”
A notice on the Melksham Family of Churches website read: ‘Rather than engage in a debate about their own policies, the Conservative and Labour candidates have decided to make BNP policies a central issue and have declined to participate because the BNP candidate is attending.’
The Melksham Family of Churches has reportedly told Emmanuel Jones that his decision not to debate with the BNP is “incompatible” with holding public office.
The Labour candidate, Greg Lovell has reportedly described the decision as a difficult one.
“There’s a difference between sitting on the stage and all of us talking about health, for example. It normalises them. I’m worried it will act as a Trojan horse for their views,” he said.
This is not the first time that Emmanuel Jones has refused to participate in local hustings because of the presence of the BNP.
At a previous event just weeks ago, organisers split the event in half, allowing the BNP candidate to participate in one half of the programme and allowing those who objected to leave.
Emmanual Jones explained that his stance was shared with many other politicians across the political spectrum.
He said: “A victory for the BNP is sharing a platform with someone like me. Sometimes they get lost in the argument of freedom of speech. They claim freedom of speech but don’t see the wider connotations of a high profile black person sharing a platform with them.
Simpkins is one of the handful of BNP councillors in the West – his ‘election’ to Corsham town council after no one stood against him in a by-election sparked a major demonstration by anti-racism campaigners and locals.
Chippenham parliamentary candidates:
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones (Conservative)
Samantha Fletcher (Green)
Duncan Hames (Liberal-Democrat)
Greg Lovell (Labour)
Jon Maguire (English Democrats)
Julia Reid (UKIP – UK Independence Party)
Richard Sexton (Christian Party)
Michael Simpkins (BNP – British National Party)
By Dominic Bascombe