Greens rally round ‘no-show’ Greenwich & Woolwich candidate

Where's Abbey?: Phil Connolly (left) stands in for the Green candidate on Wednesday in Greenwich

Where’s Abbey?: Phil Connolly (left) stands in for the Green candidate on Wednesday in Greenwich

Greenwich’s Green Party has defended its Greenwich & Woolwich candidate Abbey Akinoshun after he missed a series of election hustings in the constituency.

Akinoshun was absent for the final four hustings of the campaign, with the party supplying substitute speakers or not represented.

The 50-year-old’s absence had sparked rumours the party was unhappy with its candidate’s performance.

But local party press officer Simon Edge dismissed the claims, saying Akinoshun – who runs a Woolwich-based business which helps people going through employment tribunals – had been too busy with work to attend all the hustings.

Selection dispute

Akinoshun’s selection has been the subject of a campaign from former party member Trevor Allman, who walked out of the Greens earlier this year branding the candidate an “opportunist”.

“We had never heard of him, as he had never attended a branch meeting or participated in any Green Party activity, thus what credentials did he have to represent the Green Party as a parliamentary candidate?”, Allman said.

Allman – now in Left Unity – has seized on Akinoshun’s absence, criticising him in a series of tweets, calling him “not exactly committed”.

A former Labour member who lives in Abbey Wood, Akinoshun sought selection for that party in Erith & Thamesmead in 2009, losing out to Teresa Pearce. He then ran as an independent candidate in that constituency, winning 1% of votes – beating the Green candidate Marek Powley.

He told me on Twitter that he ran against the Greens before he “[knew] they stand as a party that wants to build a society that works for the common good”.

Allman – who has stood for the Greens in council elections, attracting over 1,000 votes in Blackheath Westcombe in the past two polls – tried to run as a rival candidate. But he was blocked because it was discovered he was not actually a member of the main Green Party of England & Wales.

Here he is: Abbey Akinoshun at this spring's Green Party conference

Here he is: Abbey Akinoshun at this spring’s Green Party conference

Absence from hustings

Akinoshun’s absence was first noted on Saturday, when he dropped out of a hustings in Charlton at short notice. The event attracted 120 voters.

“He was very stressed, largely because of this work commitment, and we agreed it was better to let it go and give him a chance to recharge his batteries,” Edge says.

Charlton Society organisers Andrew Donkin and Helen Jakeways declined the Greens’ offer to send a substitute, as they felt it would be unfair on the other candidates.

Akinoshun also did not appear at a hustings held by another residents group in Charlton on Monday, the National Union of Teachers on Tuesday, and the Greenwich Association of Disabled People on Wednesday. Substitutes represented the Greens at the other two, while Edge said the party wasn’t aware of the Charlton Central Residents Association hustings.

“He has a busy day job where he has to commit to his clients, and his work diary has to come first because it’s his own business and he has a family to support,” Edge added.

“We’re a party that has always had a collegiate leadership structure, so we hope it’s not inappropriate to have other people step forward to help.”

All six candidates appeared at the Blackheath & Greenwich United Nations Associations hustings at Mycenae House earlier this month

All six candidates appeared at the Blackheath & Greenwich United Nations Associations hustings at Mycenae House earlier this month

‘Charisma and passion’

He dismissed suggestions party members were unhappy with their candidate, praising his “charisma” when speaking to individual members of the public and “his passion, particularly in reaching out to the parts of the electorate who are often taken for granted by the Labour Party”.

Greenwich & Woolwich is certainly unusual in hosting nine hustings – just one has been held in neighbouring Eltham – and Edge conceded that volunteers had been overwhelmed by the level of interest.

In common with the Greens nationwide, the local party membership has exploded in the past year, and is now at about 250 members. But elections will remain hard work for a small band of volunteers, especially without the well-funded party machines that their larger rivals enjoy.

Edge added: “Great as it is that hustings seems to have become really fashionable, they can be all-consuming. I do think candidates need room to go out on the knocker as well as addressing meetings.”

Seeing double: Clive Efford and Matt Pennycook (right) represent Labour against Phil Connolly (Green), Tom Holder (Lib Dem) and Matt Hartley (Conservative).

Seeing double: Clive Efford and Matt Pennycook (right) represent Labour against Phil Connolly (Green), Tom Holder (Lib Dem) and Matt Hartley (Conservative).

Labour advantage at disability hustings

Meanwhile, the Labour party enjoyed an advantage at the Greenwich Association of Disabled People’s hustings last night – having two candidates to address the audience while rivals only had one.

Both Greenwich & Woolwich’s Matt Pennycook and Eltham’s Clive Efford spoke and answered questions at east Greenwich’s Forum for the early part of the evening, while the Tories, Lib Dems and Greens only had one representative each.

I’m told GAD invited all candidates standing in Greenwich borough – although if all 18 had turned up to an event attended by about 30 people, it could have resembled more of a speed-dating night than a hustings.

I didn’t stay for the whole hustings, but it wasn’t an edifying event, with the chair trying to block follow-up questions from the audience because of “election rules” (this isn’t the case). After Efford had left for his own local hustings, Pennycook tried to inject a bit of life into it himself by quizzing Green substitute Phil Connolly on the party’s citizen income policy.

At one point, Connolly found himself howled down by the chair for talking through a process of being assessed for benefits – “they know, they’re disabled!,” she shouted.

Meanwhile, a member of the public was allowed to get away with the dog-whistle question of asking candidates where they were born. He huffed loudly when Conservative Matt Hartley, who was raised in Macclesfield, explained where he came from.

Greenwich & Woolwich candidates: Ryan Acty (Ukip), Abbey Akinoshun (Green), Lynne Chamberlain (Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition), Matt Pennycook (Labour), Tom Holder (Liberal Democrats), Matt Hartley (Conservative).

6 comments

  1. Deborah

    If Mr Akinishun is too busy to attend hustings meetings, one wonders how he would find the time to function as an MP.

  2. Michael

    I was at Central Charlton Residents Association hustings and it was well attended and well chaired too. We were told that Abbey was late and might not attend due to family commitments I think. I was not impressed by this and they appear to have chosen the wrong candidate who doesn’t have time for this.

  3. Jo

    Abbey only pulled out of one hustings, and that was due to an unforeseen event. I know it’s an election, but life still happens. When we found out at very short notice about a couple more, we did our best to attend. Trevor Allman wasn’t blocked from standing, that’s just not true. He wasn’t actually a member of the Green Party, but still could have stood – he just needed 10 signatures (instead of 3) which he didn’t achieve. He only asked a handful of people btw, and most of them obliged (including me).

  4. Trevor Allman

    If Greenwich Green Party had read the 853 blog or Googled “Greenwich & Woolwich Election Hustings”, they would have found details of all the hustings. All the other candidates managed to find them, so no valid excuses there.

    Whilst this issue isn’t about me, despite Rob Stead on behalf of the Greenwich Green Party trying to make it so in his attacks on me via Twitter since Monday 27 April (including snidey remarks about my health issues), I will clarify some points concerning me.
    As Jo correctly states, I was not blocked from being standing as a Green Party candidate, despite I had only had local party membership for a few years.
    I initially had no wish to be a parliamentary candidate, due to dealing with my long term and ongoing health issues, but when nobody else in the branch wanted to stand, out of a sense of duty I unwillingly put myself forward.
    I contacted all the members whose contact details I had (around sixteen if memory serves me correct) of which three responded (of which Jo was one). So I left it at that.
    When the name of Abbey Akinoshun appeared from nowhere, and some members mentioned their concern that someone we’d never heard of would become the candidate by default due to the selection being uncontested, I made another appeal for nominees to enable me stand. This time I had four responses (again, of which Jo was one).
    So that was the end of the issue as to me standing for selection as parliamentary candidate.
    After some abuse I received from some party members (local & national), I formally ended my eleven year association with the Green Party in October 2014.

  5. ThePirateKing

    Surprised to read this. Hustings organisers have a legal duty to invite all the candidates standing and to give them good notice.

    “When we found out at very short notice about a couple more, we did our best to attend.” Jo

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