Hustings are that perfect moment in an election where bland questions violently clash with people pretending to be interested. In a bit of a change from recent trends it looked like numbers were a bit down on previous years, probably because people were scared to spend over two hours sitting on chairs designed for eight year olds. What sort of torture is this where you make adults sit on tiny chairs and listen to vacuous platitudes? It’s no wonder they say young people don’t like politics. It’s like literally getting sent back to school.
You know the format with this. Each candidate makes an opening statement and then they get to answer questions from the electorate. To spice things up a bit this year David, the Chair, asked all the candidates to keep their opening address to “what will you would bring to Moseley and Kings Heath?” Obviously each candidate had already written their opening statement so it might have been best to have emailed them the night before to let them know this. Needless to say they all ignored the question, which is fair enough.
This is what they had to say:-
Martin Straker-Welds (Labour) – A flawless answer from Martin, studiously listing the vast array of Labour achievements that the Council have delivered since taking power back in 2012. You know, living wage, safer children a community that respects recycling. Almost the perfect answer for anyone who doesn’t live in Birmingham or ever reads the news. No mention of a Council not fit for purpose or children’s services that have been taken out of the control of the City. To be fair to Martin he did have Cllr Trickett there with him and I’m not sure she would stand for any deviation from the party line.
Owen Williams (Conservative) – Being a Conservative and being forced to stand in Moseley and Kings Heath must be like some sort of coming of age ceremony. There’s no chance any of them will ever win but they still have to come to the hustings and carry their peculiar cloud of defeat with them. Owen looked a bit glum but he’s very well spoken and I think he hoped that would pull him through. He’s standing on a platform of Moseley being disproportionately affected by Council cuts (has he ever been to Sparkbrook?), he’s going to harness the community like an obstinate mule and RUBBISH. No idea where he stands on rubbish. He just shouted the word at us.
Luke Holland (Independent) – He’s 18 you know. I’m just leaving that there, it got a clap so must be relevant. Not shackled by party politics Luke is going to do things his way. He’s going to give his Councillor allowance to a foodbank, which doesn’t seem a particularly wise idea. He’ll inspect every road in the ward once a month and put a leaflet through your door four times a year. I like to know my Councillors exist if I’ve got a problem but I really don’t want them coming round my house. Oh, he’ll also take away any old fridges you’ve got. It wasn’t clear whether this offer was dependent on being elected or not.
Matin Mullaney (Lib Dem) – I’ve lost track of the amount of times that this site has been accused of focussing too much on Mullaney. His opening statement covered much of the same ground that he did in 2012.
Mike Friel (TUSC) – Mike’s got a new suit since last year. Quite bold and blue. He still doesn’t want to make any cuts and got quite animated about MPs getting paid £67k per year. Then he had to have a sit down. I think he was giddy.
Elly Stanton (Green) – Elly believes that congestion is the single biggest issue affecting Kings Heath, which is why she was late. She was late last year as well, I’m beginning to think time keeping might be a more pressing issue than congestion. Elly is also not keen on private buses because they don’t take Daysavers, is angry about Meteor Ford in a completely unspecified way and rallied us all with the cry “This is Moseley, we’ve all got degrees, let’s sort it out.” We were in Kings Heath.
There were questions, I’m not sure I can be bothered to go through them all. We started with a question about keeping the Birmingham Library open, everyone wanted to keep it open. Actually everyone except Elly Stanton who believes it shouldn’t be used as a library because of the exclusive rules on having to be quiet. Martin M, gave us an in depth explanation of what a Library is, covering all the main points of storing books and letting people read them.
Everyone agrees that sorting out social care is complex and heart breaking, probably in equal measure.
There was a consensus that we could increase the amount of affordable housing by building more affordable housing. Well consensus apart from Owen who completely misread the room and told us about the Tory plan to asset strip Housing Associations. He got the only proper booing of the night. He sort of withdrew from taking part after that and just agreed with everyone else. Well done for standing up for something, how ever stupid that thing is.
We had the annual question about opening the train station. A little bit of me died. Everyone agreed that the station should open, everyone in the room knows it will never open.
In a nice little end to the evening each candidate was asked what they would like to bring to Moseley if money was no object. Notably two candidates said “let Luke be Councillor” (one of those was Luke). Overall Luke probably won the night, he was certainly the most popular.
There weren’t enough people there to sway the result so this election will still be a tale of two Martins. Do you want a Martin that has kept his head down and got on with things for the last couple of years? Or do you want the old Martin that always used to get himself in the papers for random reasons?
It’s the general election hustings on the 29th so let’s do it all again next week. That’s the real hustings as it’s one of those rare times that our MP comes to Birmingham.