Hustings time (1)

With the local council elections now only a month away, no doubt things will hot up as wannabe councilors try to convince the would be electorate that they are they are the ones that we should be voting for. As far as my own ward (St. Lukes) is concerned we are spoilt for choice, for even though there are good reasons for not supporting any of them, there are also good reasons for supporting all of them, but a choice has to be made and I have yet to make my mind up.

While one of my fellow blogger friends has different views on the matter, sitting councilor Brian Ayling has done enough imho to warrant his re-election. Not many know this, but three reasons for saying this are: 1. His attendance as council meetings has been exemplary, 2. He has done good in raising the needs of those suffering Autism and Aspergers, 3. (according to a friend who knows more than most) he has done more than any other councilor when it comes to flying the flag for a permanent health centre in the ward. However, Donna (Labour) and Del (Conservative) are also impressive.They have been on the campaign trail for a long time now, have tried to understand the issues and have done things already that are beneficial for St. Lukes residents. Both in my view would make good councillors if given the chance. I cannot comment on the other candidates as I don’t know enough about them (although I hope to find out more). This election is particularly significant as the rainbow administration is currently in power by only a slender majority – and things may change after the elections.

I maybe in a minority here, but I know I am right – one good way to understand better what these and any other candidate might be able to bring to the party is to arrange a hustings, whereby all candidates are asked the same questions regarding issues of concern to the residents. I am hoping to pull this off with supportive friends and have written to each person who has put their hat into the rings as wanting to stand to be St. Luke’s next candidate (see below). There is a fair bit to do still, not least sorting the logistics for the night, gathering the right questions to ask and trying to let each household know that a hustings is being arranged. I hope to be able to let it be known shortly what is being arrange, which depends largely on the response I get from the candidates. It occurs to me, for some hustings are an anachronism along with apathy that often prevails, which is a pity as this is important for local democracy.

It today’s electronic age and increasing dependence on social media and susceptibility to political spin, it is tempting to discount hustings as a useful tool, but then how else can you find out why one candidate may be better suited over another, when the only other means most of us have to go by is by reading what their leaflet has to say and comparing it with those of the other candidates. It can also be a powerful means for bring candidates to account and influencing them. Interestingly, May 5th is also the date when we cast our vote for the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner. I might be wrong but last time it was a novelty and one got to hear a lot from the candidates, including through a number of hustings that were arranged. This time round there appears to be none of this. Other than knowing one of the candidates (Southend’s own Martin Terry – Independent), I know precious little about the others, which is a shame given the importance of policing matters. I hope both for this and the local elections, more hustings will be arranged.

As I think you now all are aware, I am hoping we can arrange a hustings for all the candidates for the St. Lukes ward local council election on May 5th. I will be do so with Rev. Stephen Dray (who will likely chair the hustings) and the venue will be Ferndale Baptist church. At the moment we have three dates: Tu – 19th, Fr – 22nd and We 27th (all of April of course). The times will be 7.30 – 9.30 pm. The date we choose is the one that will be most convenient for the majority. Can you let me know you are ok to take part and which dates suit (or don’t) before our announcing to the world? Preference will be given to St. Lukes residents when it comes to asking questions. While I need to meet with Stephen about arrangements, I envisage using as a model the two church arranged hustings (Southend East and West) for last years Parliamentary elections. As you know, while Stephen and I have our own views politically, our intention is to be scrupulously fair and ensure that questions concerning important issues for our ward are raised. I look forward to you taking part and hope we can pull it off in the interests of local democracy.”

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