Hustings seems a quaint, old fashioned feature of elections in the past and until I moved to our town, I had never seem them advertised. Therefore, I was delighted in the last general election when I realised that the practice is alive and well and political debate is encouraged in our constituency. I really enjoyed the hustings of 2010 so was keen to attend this campaign’s event which took place last night.
In the media there has been much comment about the levels of participation and interest in politics and a picture of apathy and disinterest has been presented. However, last night’s event was hugely popular, played to a full house with an audience really representing our town’s population. Sixty five questions had been submitted in advance and five themes were chosen, Wind Farms, not such an odd choice give there is a Wind farm proposed for our coastline, Poverty, Affordable Housing, Overseas Aid and Defence spending and the NHS. Five political parties were represented, Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green party. Two other candidates were given five minutes each to present their manifestos. Our current MP is Conservative having taken the seat from Labour in the last election with a 9% swing. This election is difficult to call, the Tory MP has a decent majority, however UKIP do appear to be popular in the area which may lower the Tory vote and allow the Labour candidate to do well. The Labour candidate was the strongest performer at the Hustings, the Green Party representative was well informed and earnest but not really a realistic vote winner, the Liberal Democrat a loose cannon, again well informed and knowledgeable about party policy but when asked his own opinion did go a bit ‘off message’, he was quite funny to listen to when he really doesn’t have a hope of scoring well. Our sitting MP did not perform well, the most often used word was ‘regrettably’ and he did suggest that a caravan was appropriate for affordable housing. There was an amusing heckle when the lack of land for house building was mentioned with a member of the audience shouting out well you own it. Our MP’s family does own an awful lot of land in this constituency, hence the proliferation of his posters in the fields. The clever player last night was the UKIP candidate, I was expecting him to repeat the national themes of immigration, EU etc.. However, he played it locally and didn’t give the headlines expected, his arguments were clear, a bit dull but he played to his audience. I am interested to see how this translates into votes.
It is now two weeks until Voting day and whilst my vote had never been in doubt, last night’s hustings reinforced my political beliefs. The nicest thing about the hustings was the proof that people are passionate about politics and keen to engage in considered and respectful debate.