General Election Hustings – 2024

Here we go, the first proper hustings in many years. None of that Mayoral nonsense. No, a proper hustings for a proper job. The chance to be the MP for the new, and exciting, constituency of Hall Green and Moseley. Though hold on a second, don’t get too excited. Although it’s a proper election the hustings itself was a farce. The only person that stands any chance of winning in this election couldn’t be arsed to turn up. So, the hustings were a small group of people giving opinions on random things.

In many ways, it is fitting that Tahir Ali was absent for the evening as it was a manifestation to the absenteeism he’s demonstrated in the constituency since 2019. Tahir’s ability to keep his head down and avoid us has actually turned out to be more impressive than Roger’s, and let’s face it Roger was more myth than man.

Only three actual candidates turned up. The Green Party was represented by Nicola who is standing in Edgbaston because Zain Ahmed was ill. Who knows what anyone else was up to, I missed the beginning because I was watching it on the Facebook stream. To be fair you could just go and watch it again now yourself rather than reading this.

David Isgrove was chairing with his usual chaotic professionalism. I don’t know who was on the bell this time, it was just an arm with a good sense of timing.

As usual there were personal statements:

Izzy Knowles – Lib Dems – Izzy spends a huge amount of time volunteering in the community and is our local Councillor. We all know Izzy, we moan to her when the bins don’t get emptied. Izzy thinks we haven’t had an MP that is committed to the area in many years. If elected she will bring investment and…… I’ve no idea what else as David started whispering to his friend.

Mohammed Hafeez – Lawyer Man – Mohammed is a lawyer and was born in the constituency. He is active in the constituency and once set up a community centre. He wants community cohesion and an ethical foreign policy. Mohammed has some longstanding issues with the Labour Party that he is working through in public.

Nicola Payne – Green – Nicola is standing in Edgbaston for the Green Party but tonight is channelling Zain Ahmed who is ill. But, plot twist, Nicola does live in Moseley. Nicola is a teacher and Zain is training to be a lawyer. She knows that if a Green MP is in the room then there is bolder action on climate change. I don’t think this was a threat. The Green Manifesto is based on universal human rights.

Shakeel Afsar – Professional Primary School Botherer – Shakeel has been an activist since 2014 and a lifelong advocate for Kashmir. He is standing because he believes his community lacks representation.

Then there were questions. You should note that the candidates (and Nicola) had seen the questions before the hustings. They had them written them down in front of them. These are the answers they gave having had the chance to read them and craft compelling answers. Bear that in mind. I didn’t have access to the questions so have paraphrased a bit. Some were very long.

1) Social care – what plans do the parties have to fund social care properly?

Izzy – Izzy thinks unpaid carers are heroes and the Lib Dems would introduce free personal care. They would also create a cross-party group to look at funding. I assume this would be a different cross-party group from the one the Lib Dems created when they were in government in 2011. They would create a social care workforce plan and a Royal College of social care.

Mohammed – Mohammed thinks that we rely too much on sponsorship from other countries and employ too many people on zero-hour contracts. I don’t think he has a policy position on this. But, as an independent, he would be able to work cross-party to solve social care.

Nicola – Nicola also believes in free personal care and the Green Party would invest £3bn in adult and children’s social care. They would also change visa conditions to allow people to change employers. That sounds sensible.

Shakeel – Shakeel understands that social care is important and there should be more incentives for people to work in social care. Sometimes when he sees people in the community, being supported to go out for a walk, he just wants to go with them. I’m sure they would be delighted to have him along if his DBS checks are all up to date.

2) Now HS2 has been cancelled should we spend the “money” on social care?

Shakeel – Shakeel believes in the majority. If the majority of people want HS2 cancelled then he also believes HS2 should be cancelled. He is happy to advocate for the scrapping of HS2 if people tell him to.

Nicola – The Green Part doesn’t believe in HS2 and thinks the money should be spent on local transport

Mohammed – Mohammed thinks we should make sure HS2 is not extended to Manchester and should spend the money on nationalising the railways

Izzy – Izzy thinks HS2 is about capacity for local trains and this is going to have an impact on our local rail services in Moseley. There also isn’t a pot of money that can just be spent on other things.

3) What should we do to protect LTNs and would you advocate for higher taxes on SUVs?

Mohammed – Mohammed knows there are different opinions on the LTNs. His view is that there has been a lot of consultation on LTNs but there should be some more. And, just like that, Mohammed kicked that old nonsense right down the road.

Izzy – Izzy pointed out that the second stage of the LTN has not been implemented yet. She also pointed out that where they have been put in the local residents don’t want to lose them. Her example being the LTN on Augusta Road that was created in the 90s. She would look at taxing cars by weight. I don’t know if she just made a spontaneous manifesto commitment.

Shakeel – Shakeel knows opinion is 50/50. He also knows LTNs were imposed with a lack of consultation. I have no idea where he could have been whilst we have had relentless rounds of LTN consultation over the last 5 or 6 years.

Nicola – Nicola agrees and disagrees. She went to a consultation where the majority of people didn’t know about the LTN plans. Which I’m going to guess is the point of a consultation.

4) Every day 250000 short journeys are made in cars, how would you increase active travel?

Shakeel – Shakeel has been working with the police to reduce performance cars (or “Death Weapons” as he calls them) for many years. I’ve no idea if they’ve deputised him or if he’s undercover or what sort of official status he has. If he is elected he’d encourage people to cycle.

Nicola – We need to invest £2.5bn to make active travel happen. She also noted that we need to create a culture of safety so that women and children feel safe using different forms of active travel.

Mohammed – We need to create safe cycle routes and look into pedestrian crossings. He left the last bit hanging, they do exist, I’ve seen them.

Izzy – We need proper neighbourhood policing because speeding is everywhere. Problems need to be tackled at the source.

5) Moseley has a long history of tolerance, what would candidates say to people who marginalise groups for political gain?

Mohammed – Mohammed has run an entire campaign on community cohesion and there are common issues that affect all of us, like speeding

Nicola – She had asked Zain about this and he believes in fairness. Plus, we need to talk to each other and stop shouting on social media.

Shakeel – Shakeel thinks, as someone involved in this sort of thing, which has to be the under-fucking-statement of the year, he will make sure all communities are represented. Apparently, people have been calling Shakeel a transphobe. He gave some examples of things he thinks about trans people. I can see why people are calling him a transphobe. He then tried to tell a story about a six foot man and his sleeping child which just sort of ground to a halt.

Izzy – Izzy thinks people need to understand what they want from politics and take responsibility for all constituents.

6) How would candidates tackle homelessness and exempt accommodation?

Nicola – Nicola asked the questioner what exempt accommodation meant. The questioner said it could mean whatever we want it to mean. I don’t think this is how housing policy works. The Green policy thinks all housing development should be agreed by local communities. That’s got a long history of working well.

Izzy – Izzy gave an extremely detailed explanation of what exempt housing is and added a long story about a supermarket. This prompted the bell to be rung and I think we all appreciated that.

Shakeel – Shakeel is a landlord but he’s a good landlord. He’s nothing like those bad landlords. He then tried to make a point about another candidate that, apparently, profits, or has profited in the past from poor housing. After Shakeel finished David was very interested in who this so-called candidate is. He got Shakeel to write their name down and there was much chuckling.

Mohammed – Mohammed believed nobody chooses to be homeless and this is a failure of the Council.

Then there was a lot of shouting. I didn’t understand why.

7) Do you agree with the Government’s decision to roll back on sex education in schools?

Shakeel – Shakeel has been advocating this for 2009 and thinks arrogant people have imposed education on children. He has been vilified by the press and he loves every community. Every community? Really? It didn’t sound very convincing.

Izzy – Izzy pointed out that she had to provide evidence when Shakeel had been blockading our local primary school and terrifying local residents.

Mohammed – Mohammed wants age-appropriate education and thinks we should respect decisions and live and let live. I can’t connect that with the question.

Nicola – Nicola understands that the content Shakeel reckons is sexualising children actually just acknowledges same-sex relationships exist. But, she does understand the school didn’t consult Shakeel about the content of the curriculum. I’m not sure why they would as he hasn’t got a connection with the school. They equally didn’t consult me.

Shakeel – Shakeel chose this point to shout “Thou shalt not lie with a man as with a woman”

8) Most parties’ climate policies fall short of avoiding climate change, what can we do to save the planet? 

Shakeel – Shakeel would advocate for better climate change but doesn’t believe spending money will solve it. Instead we need to really want the climate to change, or not change. 

Izzy – The Lib Dem manifesto has been applauded by Friends of the Earth. She thinks that as the largest Council in Europe we should be leading on climate change.

Mohammed – Mohammed agrees that there is a climate challenge. The collective sigh of relief of climate scientists across the world was audible in the room.

Nicola – Nicola thinks it is a privilege for us to talk about climate change when in many parts of the world the climate has already failed.

We then had this weird thing where David asked the audience what questions they would have asked. We generated a list including child poverty, how will candidates affect change, special educational needs, domestic abuse services, will candidates profit from policy, youth clubs, vote splitting in our community, mental health and changing the voting system. Which was interesting.

David then announced that it would be the last question on Gaza and genocide. There was a big cheer.  Like a proper big cheer.

9) Do you recognise the actions of the Israeli Government as genocide and do you think the UK should arrest people from the Israeli Government if the ICJ creates arrest warrants?

Shakeel –  Shakeel thinks it is genocide.

Izzy  – Izzy says the Lib Dems called for a ceasefire, thinks Palestine should be recognised as a state and thinks arms deals with Israel should stop. This really annoyed the audience who kept shouting “Is it genocide?”

Mohammed – As a lawyer Mohammed thinks it is genocide and thinks that Tahir Ali has been a poor representative for the constituency. He also doesn’t like Keir Starmer.

Nicola – Nicola said the Green Party were the first party to call for a ceasefire and agrees with the ICJ assessment that there is plausible evidence of genocide. This also didn’t go down well with the audience.

10) Why should people vote for you?

Shakeel – Shakeel speaks for the common man and for Palestine. If you want a man that is going to vote for himself on Thursday then vote for  Shakeel. Aren’t they all going to vote for themselves?

Nicola – Vote for a change in the electoral system so that all votes count

Mohammed – A vote for Mohammed is a vote for someone that is measured and respected. A man that doesn’t shout. It all went a bit Iain Duncan Smith here.

Izzy  – A vote for Izzy is a vote for inclusivity and visibility and an opposition that won’t pander to the right.

So, there you go. No mention of the Conservative Government, no mention of the NHS, no mention of the cost of living, or the economy, or jobs, or education, or young people, or trade or any of the things that MPs do. A hustings that managed to neatly side step any relevance to this election. Possibly a good hustings if you’re electing a Councillor but absolutely irrelevant to Government.

But, none of these people will be our MP so does it matter?



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