General Election 2024: Upset of Independent candidates over lack of invite to East Thanet hustings

Grahame Birchall and Paul Holton are upset that they are not invited to some hustings events

Two Independent parliamentary candidates for East Thanet have spoken of their upset at being excluded from taking part in pre-election hustings because they are not part of a major political party.

Grahame Birchall says he has been rejected for three Thanet hustings despite being an officially registered candidate.

He did take part in an event last night (June 20) at Olby’s in Margate but says he and other Independents should be given the same opportunity as candidates from the mainstream parties.

Grahame Birchall at the Olby’s event Photo Daniel Esson

The dad-of-four, who has lived in Ramsgate for 14 years, said: “I have been told by one organiser that only party candidates are allowed on the panel of the hustings. Some organisers say it is because of time management and others do not give a reason. One can only assume it is because I am not considered sufficiently worthy as a candidate, unless I ‘sell my soul’ to one of the major political parties.

“Making the wheels of democracy go round is not so easy as an independent. Apart from the personal cost, there is the time needed to get your message out to the electorate. Again, there are no party members to do the legwork. So, it is very disappointing, and just a little insulting, not to be invited to hustings.”

Grahame says his GRIT campaign would be much easier to bring to fruition if elected as the  MP  for East Thanet in Westminster but adds that even if he is not elected, he will continue to gather public awareness and support for his campaign and promises to enact it, at some point, after the election on 4th July.

“Getting general public recognition and support for GRIT is essential before triggering the local referendum” he says.

The campaign aim is to create a Unitary Authority for Thanet, free from Kent County Council, and led by a directly elected mayor.

Grahame, who spent 20 years in the Army, says he is not a career politician who “ needs Thanet votes to start his glittering career in Westminster” adding: “We know which party is going to gain power, so why not, just for once, use your precious vote to bring benefits solely to the place you live, Thanet.”

He is also keen to see changes such as giving some powers of scrutiny to town councils and area committees, establishing a politically balanced Cabinet and giving qualifying voluntary organisations such as Chambers of Commerce and East Kent Mencap, mandatory rights of consultation.

Independent Candidate: Paul Holton Photo by: Alan Green

Independent candidate Paul Holton says he is  disappointed to be excluded from a hustings event due to be held in Ramsgate on Monday (June 24).

He said: “I’m disappointed to learn Independent candidates have not been asked to attend and take part, or even been given the opportunity of being invited.

“Eight candidates are standing (for East Thanet) all with official recognition and authorised letters, signatories and have paid between them £500 each deposits totalling £4,000 pounds! I have attended two hustings and excluding Independents from taking part or even being invited is not fair on the electoral process. To not take part is one thing, but to not even be invited is another.”

Paul was on the panel at the hustings event in Margate last night and an EKC Broadstairs College hustings with students earlier this week.

Photo Alan Green

The 47-year-old, who works at the Shell Garage in Birchington, says he will attend the hustings at St Luke’ Church on Monday as an audience member and will be available to answer people’s questions before and after the event.

The third Independent candidate for the East Thanet seat is Mo Shafaei. The Isle of Thanet News has been unable to contact Mr Shafaei for comment.

Rev Paul Worledge, from St Luke’s Church, said: “The decision was made before knowing who would be standing in the constituency to limit the number of candidates invited to the hustings to five.

“This was in order to allow time for a reasonable number of questions to be asked and time for the candidates to answer the questions. Priority has been given to those candidates representing parties who have the highest ratings in the national polls.”

The country goes to the polls on Thursday 4 July.


St. Luke’s Church, Ramsgate, at 7.30pm on Monday 24th June.

Answering questions submitted by residents in advance will be:

Helen Harrison (Conservative candidate)

Steve Roberts (Green Party candidate)

Jai Singh (Liberal Democrat candidate)

Labour candidate Polly Billington (This is updated, Cllr Everitt will no longer be attending in her place)

Paul Webb (Reform UK candidate)

The doors of St. Luke’s will be open from 7pm and the hustings will start promptly at 7:30pm.

Rev Paul Worledge is chairing the event, which will be livestreamed

To find out more and submit questions click here

East Kent Chamber of Commerce

A Chamber Question Time business breakfast meeting beginning at 7.30am on Friday, 28th June  in Broadstairs.

Chamber members, their guests, suppliers, customers and friends are invited to attend, The price of £21 includes a hot drink on arrival, a full English breakfast and ample opportunities to promote your products and services. To book your place, email [email protected] with the subject line “Chamber Question Time hustings 28 June 2024”. Ful details of

the venue in Broadstairs and how to submit a question will follow with confirmation of booking.


Thursday 27 June 2024, 19:00 – 20:30
Cliftonville Community Centre, St Paul’s Road, Margate, CT9 2DB

Please come along to ask questions and hear the answers from your local candidates standing to be the Member of Parliament for East Thanet.

Candidates taking part are:

– Polly Billington, Labour Party (confirmed)
– Grahame Birchall, Independent (confirmed)
– Helen Harrison, Conservative Party (confirmed)
– Paul Holton, Independent (confirmed)
– Steve Roberts, Green Party (confirmed)
– Mo Shafaei, Independent (invited)
– Jai Singh, Liberal Democrats (invited)
– Paul Webb, Reform UK (confirmed)

To take part, and to submit a question, please register (link above). There is no cost to take part. (You can also register on the door.)

This hustings is being organised and paid for by Nico Macdonald, a Margate private citizen. The event is not affiliated to or underwritten by any organisation, political or otherwise.

If you have any question please email: [email protected]

Herne Bay and Sandwich constituency hustings

Christ Church 47-65 William St, Herne Bay

Monday 24th June 7pm

Thea Barrett Green Party

Angie Curwen Lib Dems

Roger Gale Conservative

Amelia Randall Reform UK

Helen Whitehead Labour

Questions can be submitted via the contact form at…/326610/Contact_Us.aspx

or by email [email protected]

Election candidates

Herne Bay and Sandwich constituency

Thea Barrett – Green Party – read here

Angie Curwen – Liberal Democrats – read here

Roger Gale – The Conservative Party – read here

Amelia Randall – Reform UK – read here

Helen Elizabeth Whitehead – Labour Party – read here

East Thanet constituency

Polly Billington Labour – read here

Grahame Birchall Independent – read here

Helen Harrison Conservative – read here

Paul Holton Independent – read here

Steve Roberts Green – read here

Mo Shafaei Independent – statement can be found here

Jai Singh Liberal Democrat –read here

Paul Webb Reform UK – read here


  1. I was going to spoil my paper, because the UK does not have a democratic system to elect a parliament, but was talked out of it by a highly respected national journalist. I have posted my vote already, and its not for Labour or Conservative, because I can’t tell them apart, and I’m not going to get caught again by a Blair mini me!

Comments are closed.