UK Independence Party candidate Jane Collins performed a double U-turn yesterday after she was challenged to a debate by sitting Yorkshire MEP Edward McMillan-Scott ahead of the European elections.
Ms Collins initially accepted the challenge only to refuse it hours later. She subsequently changed her mind a second time and agreed to take part.
Mr McMillan-Scott had challenged Ms Collins, Ukip’s lead candidate for Yorkshire in May’s European elections, to have a debate on Britain’s membership of the European Union to mirror the contest between UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg agreed earlier in the week.
Ms Collins agreed to the debate via the social networking website Twitter and told the Yorkshire Post: “They know they are going to lose seats. This is their last stand I suppose.”
However, hours later she changed her mind after she had spoken to Yorkshire MEP Godfrey Bloom, who was elected as a UKIP candidate but is now an independent, and the party,
She said she feared the debate would descend into “personal vilification” rather than a debate on the issues.
“My predecessor and party don’t feel it’s appropriate I have a head to head debate with one of the vice-presidents (of the European Parliament).”
After reflecting on the matter further though, Ms Collins decided again to take part.
“I can understand their points, they didn’t want to give him airtime or me to be on the same platform as him. I understand my predecessor on that but I have never backed away from anything in my life.
“I don’t like walking away from something like this so I think we should keep going ahead with it.”
Ukip are expected to do well in the European elections and as lead candidate on the party’s Yorkshire list Ms Collins is likely to secure a seat as one of the region’s MEPs.
Final details of when and where the debate will take place have yet to be agreed.
Mr McMillan-Scott said: “It does not say much for the strength of her convictions if the UKIP candidate changes her mind so easily.
“I remain at the ready for a debate about our EU membership which affects more than 100,000 workers in Yorkshire and Humber, whose jobs depend on our EU membership, but which UKIP wants to quit.
“The Liberal Democrats are the party of ‘in’ and I am ready to debate the real issues, but I’m not holding my breath.”
Mr Clegg and Mr Farage will hold a radio debate on LBC on Wednesday, March 26, with a repeat performance for television on BBC 2 a week later.
The European Elections take place on Thursday May 22.