Hustings Time (2)

Two weeks ago, I posted on my blog a piece about (election) hustings and declared my intention to organize a hustings for my own ward (St. Lukes) ahead of the local elections to be held on May 5th. Check out here for details of tomorrow’s (Friday’s) hustings where five of the six candidates standing will be in attendance.

While I suspect I am merely part of a small minority that believe hustings to be important and an even smaller one that might take the effort to organize one, I felt that this was one piece of community activism I should get involved in and since no-one else was taking the lead, I determined I would do so, since this is a great opportunity (maybe the only one) to find out what the candidates think about important issues and to compare and contrast. As I write, I feel all set to rock and roll and look forward hopefully into bringing in the punters on the night. Interestingly, I discovered two other wards organizing hustings, leaving, sadly, 14 wards that aren’t.

I like to think that everything is now in place for tomorrow’s hustings. Whether many turn up, remains to be seen, but one is hopeful. As is often the case in putting on events, there is a need to let people know it is happening and then persuade them it is something worth attending. While done on a shoestring, every effort is being made to do this, principally leafleting most of the households in the ward with the details. Going door to door was an interesting experience and I am grateful to three of the candidates (Del, Donna and Jason) for their help. One salutary experience was noting the number of “No Junk Mail” sign’s on people’s door, sometimes with further elaboration, and debating whether my leaflet qualifies. It seems a pity, by understandably preventing intrusion into privacy people fail to receive important information.

Since hustings, for one of the other wards where these were being held, took place last night, I decided it would be a good idea to go along, if only to pick up good ideas about how to conduct one. Go along I did and was glad I did go along. The hustings I attended was put on by the Westborough Residents Association, and all seven candidates standing for election were there to answer questions: Daryl Peagram (Conservative), Frank Snell (UKIP), Alan Hart (Independent), Anne Jones (Labour), Pam Austin (Liberal Democrat), Paul Mansfield (The Green Party). The hustings were a well run and good tempered affair, with strict time keeping adhered to and rotating the batting order, to ensure absolute fairness. While there was a fair attendance, I couldn’t help feeling sad that not more people took advantage of enjoying this unique experience.

While only eight questions were asked due to the time restriction, they were relevant, particularly as these related to the Westborough situation, including to do with threats to the doctor’s surgery, over development of housing especially converting buildings to multi occupancy dwellings, the local library, and fly tipping. Daryl, Frank and Pam all put in creditable performances. Alan showed a passion for social justice I found refreshing. Paul, despite his qualms about public speaking, spoke with conviction. This leaves me with what many see as the two front runners. Sitting councilor, Dr Vel, is amazing and is still going strong at 77 and showing he cares, especially concerning young people and the underdog. I for one would love to see him be returned after May 5th, if for no other reason he will become the town’s mayor. As for Anne, her performance was the most polished and contained most content but she had the irritating habit of passing notes while others spoke and ranting about how bad the system was rather than focus on what she would do to work in what most would agree is a bad system.

All of which brings me back to the show I have the responsibility for arranging and, hopefully, running smoothly. I do hope folk will attend, it will be a productive occasion, democracy will be the winner and all the hard work put in will have been worthwhile.

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