UPDATE:Complete audio of the justings is available here.
Bloody hell, that was tedious. The hall was packed, but that didn’t stop it from being a very slow moving, sedentary hustings. I don’t think the organisers expected anything like the turnout that appeared. The place was heaving – the hall was almost full (and boiling, thanks to the house lights being left on throughout the proceedings). Before the beginning, I heard someone behind me muttering that “the LibDem hasn’t got a tie on…”
The event was organised into two halves, with the first half consisting of two minute pitches from each candidate, then six minute pitches from each candidate, then two questions posed by the “independent residents”. In total, this took nearly 45 minutes. We all know what the candidates stand for. If you’ve followed this site, you’ve googled them all until you’re blue (or red, or yellow) in the face. We didn’t need half an hour of lecturing, followed by the “independent residents”.
The independent residents, bless their thoughtful souls, were sort of brilliant, in a gentle sort of way. They posed us a series of careful, intellectual questions, which none of the candidates actually bothered to answer. Although, you may not have noticed, because there was a bloody tea break between the posing of the questions, and the replies. My prejudices had kicked in early on, looking at this bunch of elderly gents running the show… But, despite coming across like Waldorf and Statler, their assessments and questions were absolutely spot-on.
The problem was that this event didn’t need their assessments at this point. These hustings were dead from the neck up. Before any of the hundreds of people who had given up their evenings to try and decide who to vote for had had a chance to put their questions, we had a series of economics lectures (yes, we know the debt is a catastrophe), and a lecture on Trident, the sentiments of which were brilliant and well meant, but totally unnecessary during a hustings.
These two should have been blogging, not on stage!
Nothing about this event felt off-the-cuff (apart from a couple of heckles – more on them later). Questions had to be offered in advance, then selected by the chairman, who did a good enough job within the chosen format, but it could have been so much better.
Blackheath is blessed with these amazing facilities – this amazing hall, complete with a bar at the back, a really good sound system, and enough seating for all, and yet, the entire event felt pre-scripted. Next time, make it spontaneous. Have a chairman to keep order, and have a microphone at the front, and allow members of the public to put their questions one by one, answered immediately. Allow the candidates to interrupt each other. The crowd was courteous and polite to a fault – even the heckles were harmless… So don’t package it all up like this next time, and allow us to see opposing candidates debating against their peers, not against other regions!
The candidates themselves came across very strangely. Beware these blues that cloak themselves in red, these reds that appear so blue… They truly seemed to be outdoing each other in rhetoric, David Gold (conservative) was full of “NHS Dentists, and local schools”, whilst Nick Raynsford was busy invoking the ghost of his dead father to justify the continuation of Trident. Pete Pattisson was the only one that seemed to talk any sense from my point of view, though even he appeared to duck the obviously dangerous questions – (“Will you really scrap Trident?” “We will not renew it with a like-for-like replacement.”)
There was a very long and ultimately rather pointless discussion about how each candidate would alter the voting system. Nick Raynsford believed First Past The Post worked well when there were two dominant parties, and cited Israel as an example of why Proportional Representation was a bad thing?! Pete Pattisson claimed that “safe seats grow lazy politicians” (ouch!), and wanted the Single Transferable Vote. Raynsford retorted by asking anyone in the audience to name all of their London EU representatives, and said that he was now in favour of the Alternative Vote system, repeatedly telling us that he had installed this in the Greater London Authority. Daivd Gold said that First Past the Post was a good system, but that his party would make changes so that “bad” MPs could be removed by petition.
As for heckling, Nick Raynsford would have done well to avoid mentioning Gordon Brown, which caused a few shouts from the back. David Gold really should have seemed less keen to criticise Raynsford’s evocation of Thatcher (one bitter voice shouted “Was she a Conservative David?”). But by far the best moment was at the end, when the chairman asked the minority candidates in the house to identify themselves, so that the public could speak to them directly (imagine that). When only one hand appeared, the chairman asked them all to stand up. “I am standing up!” came the lone voice of the
Christian Democrat Lewisham People Before Profit candidate for Lewisham East from the back of the room. Never mix religion and politics, even if you are of average height…
Anyway, if you want detail, I’ve recorded the whole thing, and will attempt to upload it soon, albeit in terrible quality. The horrendous Dell from Hell is currently threatening me with a .NET unhandled exception error in DNSServiceBrowse. Which means my PC actually talks less sense than the politicians. But as soon as I’ve fixed it, I’ll upload the audio here.
The event also came with a very handy leaflet -
Leaflet from Blackheath Hustings
Which details exactly who is standing where – well worth a look.ATT