Anger over Boris snub for user-led question time


London’s mayor has been criticised for failing to turn up for an event that provided an opportunity for disabled people to question candidates for May’s mayoral election.

Three of the four leading candidates for mayor attended the “hustings” organised by two disabled people’s organisations, Inclusion London and Transport for All (TfA), but the mayor Boris Johnson was said to be too busy to turn up.

Johnson’s decision to send another Conservative politician, Richard Tracey, in his place, caused anger among disabled audience members.

There was further anger when it emerged that Johnson would instead be attending a hustings next month organised by three non-user-led national disability charities: Mencap, Leonard Cheshire Disability and RNIB.

The three charities have not invited Inclusion London or Transport for All to their event.

Faryal Velmi, TfA’s director, said she was unhappy with the mayor’s decision, and that of the three charities to hold their own hustings – and not invite or consult with the capital’s leading user-led organisations.

She suggested that Johnson may have refused to attend because of the hostile reception he received at last October’s Disability Capital conference, where he and disabled people’s minister Maria Miller both received repeated, angry heckling from activists.

Henrietta Doyle, Inclusion London’s policy officer, added: “Boris Johnson’s support for Deaf and disabled people’s organisations is under question as he has turned his back on our hustings.”

A spokesman for Johnson said: “We have been approached by a number of disability organisations regarding mayoral debates but sadly competing commitments don’t allow us to accept all of them.

“Boris Johnson will be debating the other mayoral candidates at a hustings jointly held by Mencap, Leonard Cheshire and RNIB in April, and is looking forward to discussing the key issues there and answering the questions of disabled Londoners.”

But when Disability News Service asked why Johnson had chosen to attend an event organised by three national disability charities rather than user-led, pan-London organisations – and whether he was aware of the importance of such events being run by user-led organisations – the spokesman declined to comment further.

No-one from Leonard Cheshire Disability was available to comment on why they and the other two charities organised a rival hustings event, or have failed to invite London’s leading user-led organisations to attend.

22 March 2012