General Election Hustings – 2019
For an election that nobody wants these hustings turned out to be strangely popular. The Labour Party, dumping Roger as our MP, and his decision to run as an independent candidate, had obviously got a lot of people convinced that this was going to be a lot more interesting than it actually was.
With 130 people inside and anywhere between 50 and 100 people (depending on the range of text messages I received) stuck outside, people were expecting a lot. Think about that. Possibly 100 people couldn’t get into a hustings in an ostensibly safe seat. That means a lot of people had vastly underestimated quite how lazy Roger is.
Roger didn’t turn up.
We did get five candidates. The evening was once again Chaired by Achim Jung. He ably does a job of work; he knows what order he wants the questions answered in and got us all out of the room half an hour earlier than I expected.
Each candidate gave their customary two-minute pitch for the job: –
Penny-Anne O’Donnell (Conservative) – Penny-Anne is a speech therapist and a voice for the voiceless. Which is ironic as she started her speech with “Can you hear me now?” She is hard working, has an auntie that works in Hall Green and although she voted remain in the referendum she wants to get the deal done. She knows that nobody wants the election. A concept possibly lost on the 100 people standing outside.
Izzy Knowles (Lib Dem) – Izzy worked for the police until she retired. Since then she has worked with groups supporting homeless people and has either started up or is a member of just about every local group you can think of. That’s not a joke, she runs pretty well everything. She didn’t expect to ever get involved in politics but was galvanised by the referendum. If these things were judged on applause Izzy would be talking to estate agents in Westminster now.
Patrick Cox (Greens) – Patrick is a long-standing candidate and is clearly the most coherent in talking at a hustings. He came to Birmingham in 2004 and recognises the many challenges we have in Hall Green, particularly the number of people that are obviously homeless. This election is the last chance to stop the climate crisis.
Rosie Cuckston (Brexit Party) – Rosie has lived here since 1987. She is a global HR manager and spent 20 years in an indie band. For the nosey that band was Pram. This election is about Parliament vs the People. The Brexit Party want to make contracts with the public to abolish the House of Lords and allow anyone, who can get the support of 5 million people, to have a referendum on anything. Which got a laugh.
[EDIT] Probably worth stressing that Rosie left Pram 12 years ago. A point validly being made by the current members of Pram that don’t share Rosie’s views.[/EDIT]
Tahir Ali (Labour) – Tahir has a bit of a sore throat and four children. He lives in Alum Rock. He gave us his entire educational history which I didn’t write down. He has been a Councillor since 1999. He promises that if we elect him, he won’t spread hate and will get an office in the constituency. I’d taken the “not spreading hate” bit as a given but I’m glad he committed to it publicly.
We had questions, many questions. This year they were submitted on paper first, so I assume some quality check took place. I’ve not included all of them because this is already too long.
Pete asked if Mr Ali could clarify his position on the demonstrations at Anderton Park Road School and his position on anti-Semitism and islamophobia?
That’s two questions Pete, possibly even three questions. It was agreed that everyone should get to answer both questions, which seemed fair as they had all bothered to turn up.
Izzy had been to the school to talk to the teachers and witnessed the protests first-hand. She had made the effort to buy the books, that were the claimed cause of parental anger, and had brought copies of them for Roger. Possibly Roger would have turned up if knew there were free books. Izzy also gave evidence at the recent court hearing.
Patrick believes the whole case has illustrated the need for the Equalities Act and that it should have been the role of the MP to bring communities together. Which was almost certainly a dig at Roger. We all chuckled.
Rosie had sympathy with the parent’s concerns and thinks that a prescribed approach to relationship education is symptomatic of a lack of trust in humanity. She believes most parents raise children to have respectful relationships and people are disconnected from the political system.
Tahir welcomed the court ruling and said that he had put out a statement the day before setting out his support. He noted that the same people doing the demonstrating had been telling lies about him. He believes all of the nine protected characteristics are equally valid and there is no difference between those driving the protests and the BNP or National Front.
Penny-Anne had been relieved by the judgement and agrees that education should be inclusive. She then asked us if it was 2019. It seems a bit late in the year to be seeking that sort of clarification.
Moving onto Pete’s sneaky second question.
Patrick claimed that no party has a monopoly on virtue and there are problems, with anti-Semitism and islamophobia, throughout society. He made the point that we need to start believing the people that feel attacked.
Rosie said that Labour’s problem with anti-Semitism were systemic and rooted in its opposition to capitalism whereas islamophobia is a matter of individual expression. That didn’t go down well with the audience, so Rosie closed the matter by yelling “LABOUR BOMBED IRAQ”. For some reason.
Tahir had a quick list of other parties that had recently thrown out candidates for anti-Semitism and claimed you won’t read about them in the press run by the Lehman Brothers. Those pesky bankrupt bankers hiding the truth from us yet again. He then told us to look beyond the Daily Mail and this was all about stopping Corbyn.
[EDIT] Just to clarify this, as so many people have asked, I don’t think Tahir was answering this with an anti-Semitic trope. I think he really was just being incoherent. He clearly said Lehman Brothers by accident. By the time he got to the Daily Mail bit he was more just saying random words rather than making a point. [/EDIT]
Penny-Anne told us Boris had ordered an investigation into all aspects of racism. He is also redefining Islamophobia. Honestly, he wouldn’t have been my first choice.
Izzy told us racism shouldn’t be part of politics. She also made the point that as so few electoral seats have an impact on elections, we end up with poor candidates. A sentiment we can all get behind.
Noting Pete’s previous success in getting two questions into one, Chris asked the candidates if they would commit to always making votes on the climate crisis the biggest priority and would they cancel the plan to widen the Moseley Road?
Tahir informed us that Jeremy Corbyn says the stakes couldn’t be higher as we only have 12 years to save the planet. The Labour manifesto has a chapter on their proposed Green Deal. Tahir doesn’t know the detail on the Moseley Road but if he is elected, he will look into it. Fair play Tahir, you don’t want to waste an hour on Google unless you’re getting paid.
Penny-Anne would make the climate “a” priority and notes that Stratford, where she lives and is a Councillor, are already doing a lot to tackle it. Stratford sounds nice.
Izzy would make the climate a priority and opposes the plan to widen the road. She made the point that the Council hadn’t consulted any local groups to explain why cutting trees down is a good way to promote bus use. At this point, as a member of the Council, Tahir looked like a man who was committed to keeping his head down.
Patrick would, obviously, commit to addressing the climate crisis as it is an extinction event. He also opposes widening the road. He made the fair point that if you prioritise the issue of climate change then you really should go to the Party that has been banging on about it for years (I paraphrase).
Rosie thinks the hysterical term “Climate Emergency” has caused problems such as the EU cutting down trees in Eastern Europe. Instead we should focus on honouring the 2016 referendum. Which is about as great a leap as anyone made all night.
The final question asked the candidates what they would do for the people of Kashmir.
Izzy has been to some of the local protests but would like to know more about it.
Patrick told us he sees it as an unfolding tragedy and that the Government should stand up and do something.
Rosie said that she would learn more about it if she was elected. She acknowledged that India was a large democracy and that if we wanted to make points about democracy, we first should……… you all know where that was going.
Tahir said that as a Kashmiri man he was best placed to be a voice for Kashmir. Which seems reasonable. He would also be a voice for Palestine, and he has done lots of work to get people from Kashmir recognised as a distinct ethnic group. Tahir knows a lot about Kashmir, and his points seemed sound, but he did become incoherent as he pretended to not notice his time was up.
Penny-Anne doesn’t think it’s our job to mediate. Conservative international isolationism in a sentence.
That was it.
The Hall Green election will almost certainly be won on the back of Kashmir and it’s disappointing that most candidates hadn’t prepared for that.
See you next year once whichever mess of a Government we elect inevitably collapses.