Monday, 5 June 2017

General election 8 June 2017: hustings at Hitchin & Harpenden constituency

In my constituency, there are six candidates:
  • For the Conservative Party, Bim Afolami (his address in Kettering);
  • For the Liberal Democrat Party, Hugh Annand (his address in Belgium);
  • For the Green Party, Richard Cano.
  • For the Christian People’s Alliance, Sid Cordle.
  • For the Labour Party, John Hayes.
  • One independent, Ray Blake.

I didn’t know about the hustings meeting, but wouldn’t have attended even if I knew about it (I had other things to do with on Fri 02Jun2017).

Fortunately, the Comet newspaper recorded it, presumably on a smartphone mounted on a tripod.  The sound quality was poor, but just about audible.  The journalist’s furious typing on his laptop (complete with mouse clicks) was more audible than the voices of the speakers!  The format was similar to BBC Question Time.

The largest applause for the opening speeches was for the Labour candidate.  The second largest was for the Green candidate.  This reaction of the audience was the common pattern to the whole hustings, so clearly strongly partisan/tribal.  The seat has been considered a “safe” Conservative seat for years, so the audience’s reactions probably should not be considered representative of the whole constituency.

It is great to see an independent on the ballot paper!  His motivation to stand as a national candidate was prompted by the funding of schools, and intended to stand as a single-issue candidate.  He is a financial adviser.  His introductory speech touched upon cases where funds are available (“There’s plenty of money to fund our schools, our NHS…”), but questions how they might be (mis-)used, then goes onto criticise the government’s current mantra of austerity.  For question 3, he said, “Let’s take money from rich pensioners, and give it to the schools instead.”

Hustings questions (paraphrased):
  1. Why hold this election? (@ 33m)
  2. Should 16-17 year-olds be allowed to vote? (@ 36m)
  3. How would the candidates’ parties ensure schools can be funded appropriately, to avoid deficit-financing? (@ 40m)
  4. How will you fund an even better health service? (@ 51m)
  5. What would you do to ensure that young families are forced to leave the area because of unaffordable housing? (@ 1h 2m)
  6. What will you do reverse the national disgrace that the 5th-largest economy in the world has people going to foodbanks? (@ 1h 11m)
  7. What are your views on climate change, and what solutions do you propose? (@ 1h 21m)
  8. How do you propose to protect the rights of EU citizens [sic] in this constituency during the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations? (@ 1h 31m)
  9. If you support the Trident missile system, under what circumstances would you be prepared to use the Trident missile system? (@ 1h 40m)
  10. Local issue: what is the point of a national policy on the Green Belt when local representatives recommend building on the Green Belt? (@ 1h 49m)
  11. Local issue: if elected, how proactive would you be to ensure better management of the Hitchin town hall & museum project (context: North Herts District Council has allowed a £2.35m project to balloon to ~£6m project, and is flawed in other ways).  (@ 1h 57m)

The list of questions is typical of that of a “normal” general election, even if the audience might have been gamed-up to reflect a particular perspective.

For question 8:
  • Afolami: this is the number one issue for Brexit negotiations, similarly for UK citizens’ rights in the EU (to muted audience response).
  • Cordle: an immediate guarantee (to muted audience response).
  • Annand: mumbled something and got huge applause for his mumble.  The EU will reciprocate if the UK offers.  More concerning is the disgraceful “computer say no” letters sent to some people telling them effectively to leave (to warm applause).
  • Cano: (regurgitated manifesto, didn’t answer question) (muted applause).
  • Hayes: referred to the six tests in the Labour manifesto, didn’t name them for lack of time.
  • Blake: an immediate guarantee followed by the same question of the EU re UK citizens in the EU.

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