ballot-boxAnother week and another hustings. This time it was the General Election hustings. That means these are people applying for a proper job with sixty seven grand a year, a four day week and a posh flat in London. You would think that given the stakes being so high AND taking place somewhere that served beer, this would have been a thrilling affair. It wasn’t, in all of the hustings I’ve ever been to this has to be the most tedious two and a half hours I’ve sat through.

Do you want to know who’s standing and what they said to introduce themselves?

Roger Godsiff (Labour) – Roger is our sitting MP so has a track record to back up. This was his moment to report back on everything he’s done. For some reason he decided not to. His opening address consisted of his analysis that he doesn’t think there will be a majority victory and he really likes the NHS. That was it. He then sat down and did a good impression of a man that was about to literally die of boredom.

Elly Stanton (Green) – Elly is also standing in the local elections so I feel like I’ve seen a lot of her recently. Elly is always late to the hustings, it’s her thing. Last night was no exception, though this time she did make it before she was supposed to speak. Her introduction consisted of a list of things that Caroline Lucas has done as an MP for Brighton. It sold me on the idea of voting for Caroline Lucas who unfortunately is not standing in Hall Green.

Jerry Evans (LibDem)– It’s good to see Jerry back again, he had a sniff of victory in 2010 until the pesky Respect party turned up and stole all his votes. Those days are clearly gone and he’s back to making up the numbers. His introduction also had a lot of numbers. In the last ten years he has, apparently, written 32,000 letters. That works out as an average of 8.7 letters per day (including weekends). His stamp budget alone must be one of the causes of the Council’s imminent financial collapse. Jerry also likes the NHS.

James Bird (Conservative) – James has worked in communications for over a decade where, oddly, using a microphone seems to have never come up. He’s passionate about youth and when it comes to tax he believes that the more you earn the more you should get back. Which I believe is called regressive taxation and not practised by any country I can think of. If Amazon could vote in Hall Green I’m pretty sure they’d vote for James.

Shiraz Peer (Respect) – Shiraz has a lot to live up to, Salma Yaqoob nearly provided a surprise upset in the 2010 election coming close to unseating Roger. Salma had a much higher media profile than Shiraz. His most impressive fact was that this was the biggest hustings that he’d been to in the last fortnight. Where was this other large secret hustings and why weren’t we told about it? Shiraz also likes the NHS and will do things like fight the TTIP.

Then there were loads of questions. Though the system for asking them was basically a shambles.

The consistent thing with people that ask questions at a hustings is that they always feel that their question requires massive amounts of context. This has two effects, it means that the audience are usually really bored by by the time they get to the point and more importantly all of the candidates ignore the question and latch on to the vague theme they were listening to.
Some of the questions (summarised) were:-

  • What would you do about inequality?
  • Would you abolish the market in the NHS?
  • What are your red lines if a hung parliament?
  • Does the provision of childcare threaten the family unit?
  • Would you abolish the Human Rights Act?
  • Do you have a vision for Education (and another 20 supplementary questions)?
  • What would you do to combat the threat of artificial intelligence?

Yes, that last  question is the single greatest question asked at any hustings I’ve ever been to. All of the candidates chose to completely ignore it proving that come the rise of our robot overlords you don’t want to be living in Hall Green.

All of the other questions got the usual platitudes. James got a point for saying “hard working people” with a straight face. Elly read long passages from the Green party manifesto to us and then proceeded to take issue with bits of it. Jerry agreed with most people. Shiraz made consistently well informed points. Roger looked like he had somewhere else to be.

Towards the end it all broke down a bit. It was obviously going to over run as there was no real system for asking questions, so many people started using any opportunity to leg it. Actually that’s the point that it all got a bit interesting.

A number of people challenged Roger on his voting record, something like 4 votes in 5 years [Apparently I misunderstood this and he spoke in 4 debates in 5 years]. This really annoyed him and he asked the audience whether they want an MP that votes on things in Parliament or someone that focuses on their constituency. Has anyone seem him in the constituency since 2010?

At the end everyone got to give one reason why we should vote for them.

Shiraz – Shiraz  said we should vote for the candidate not the party and we should decide whether we’ve been well served by our current MP.

James – James is going to sort out Robin Hood Island and open Moseley Station. Which was basically desperate.

Elly – Elly reckons that if you’re thinking of not voting then vote Green. The idea that people who are thinking of not voting bothered to sit through all of this is mind boggling.

Jerry – Jerry will continue to write letters.

Roger – Roger was quite angry by this bit and said it’s really up to us.

There you go. The white heat of democracy. It was enough to put you off voting all together.

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