UK Independence Party leadership candidate John Rees-Evans has hit out at his fellow candidates after they refused to debate him on the national media, Breitbart London understands.
Mr. Rees-Evans has expressed frustration at the fact that on multiple occasions, Paul Nuttall and Suzanne Evans — who describe themselves as “Team Sensible” have refused to take Mr. Rees-Evans on with an independent moderator from a news organisation.
On two occasions, on the BBC Radio Five Live programme, and on the Victoria Derbyshire show, Mr. Nuttall and Ms. Evans are believed to have refused to debate if Mr. Rees-Evans was included in the programming. Five Live will now only be speaking with Mr. Rees-Evans.
Instead, the pair have opted to use small and remote UKIP leadership hustings chaired by Party Chairman Paul Oakden, who has himself admitted telling Mr. Rees-Evans not to “rock the boat” in the leadership campaign; the very same approach the party used with Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam when he was in contention.
Mr. Rees-Evans, also convinced the party was seeking a “coronation” for Mr. Nuttall, opted out of the hustings and instead embarked upon a major tour of the country in order that he could meet UKIPers face-to-face.
Reflecting on the fact that Mr. Rees-Evans wants to debate outside of UKIP’s hustings, Mr. Nuttall told Breitbart London: “I will not debate or give airtime to someone who refuses to do hustings and debate with me in front of Ukip members. I consider it an insult not only to the process, but most importantly to our hard working members whom I have campaigned with for over a decade”.
But Mr. Nuttall’s position is perhaps an easy one to take given that almost the entire party hierarchy is concerned with keeping outsider candidates like Mr. Rees-Evans out of the picture.
Meanwhile, even Mr. Nuttall’s supporters have told Breitbart London that he is committed to making Suzanne Evans — who is fundamentally unpopular inside the party — his deputy leader if he wins the contest.
Speaking to Breitbart London, Mr. Rees-Evans said: “I find the excuse given that I refused to take part in hustings is just that, an excuse.
“These weren’t real hustings; there were carefully chosen, pre-selected questions, there was a complete lack of debate, and there was no opportunity to challenge other candidates on their answers. What’s more, I was given warning from a party official not to ‘rock the boat’ before the first hustings or I would risk not being invited to future hustings by the party.
“It was clear these hustings were a show to facilitate a ‘coronation’ of the party managements favoured candidate, Paul Nuttall. I decided my time was better spent talking with the members myself.
“The reason they won’t debate me in the media is because they know my platform for direct democracy and a greater say by the membership on the management and direction of the party is something they would find impossible to argue against. They want business as usual. I believe our members want change.”
Breitbart London reached out to Suzanne Evans for comment, but did not receive a response.