I thought readers might be interested to see this article written by Robert Halfon and published on ConservativeHome yesterday http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2008/05/what-are-labour.html#comment-114229570
Some weeks ago, Conservative Friends of Israel was invited by Hadley Wood Jewish Community to speak in a Dimbleby Question Time-style debate. We readily agreed. I myself was due to appear on the platform with a representatives from other parties.
Last Thursday, we suggested to the organisation, that given the Labour Panelist was a local MP, Andrew Dismore, and the Liberal Panelist, a Barnet Councillor, Monroe Palmer, that instead of myself doing the debate, it might be more apt to have Councillor Matthew Offord (Deputy Leader of Barnet Council and Tory PPC for Hendon).
The organisers were initially pleased with this idea, particularly since Hadley Wood Jewish Community is in Barnet. Moreover Cllr Offord readily agreed to do the event instead of me.
On Friday, matters suddenly changed. The organisers, asked if I would stand in again because Andrew Dismore MP refused to share a platform with Matthew Offord. Astonished, I asked why, particularly given that, although Matthew was Mr Dismore's opponent, they would not be discussing any issues to do with Hendon. Moreover I argued that Matthew was not only Deputy Leader of Barnet Council, but was a member of CFI, had been on a CFI visit to Israel and had a wide knowledge of what was happening in Israel.
The response was clear and I reproduce it below for the benefit of CentreRight eaders:
"The difficulty is this. Andrew Dismore has a rule against debating with parliamentary opponents. He tells me this is standard practice. He is quite firm about this".
This really is a remarkable response from the Labour MP, particularly since no such rule exists and PPCs and MPs regularly share platforms up and down the country. In the last few weeks Boris and Ken debated on numerous platforms.
Out of courtesy to the Hadley Wood Jewish Community, and because of the incredible and kind efforts of the organiser, CFI agreed to do the debate this evening as originally agreed and I will appear on the Platform with Messrs Dismore and Palmer this evening.
For a local Labour MP to be frightened and refuse to debate with his opponent - on matters of a serious nature - just shows what has gone wrong.