By Dude Swheatie of Kwug(1)
Report on Harlesden to Kilburn Transition Town hustingsI felt it refreshing to act as 'fly on the wall' observer at an Hampstead & Kilburn constituency hustings outside my own geographic voting area. Tory and Ukip candidates did not turn up but I believe sent apologies to Queens Park for Harlesden to Kilburn Transition Town hustings on Thursday 16 April that was arranged very differently from whole panel conventional hustings. I thought it was perhaps a missed opportunity for those candidates who did not turn up and the audience alike;(2) but I know from a friend who is a parliamentary cnadidate in another constituency that 'the candidate trail' can be tiring and candidates can get ill.
Having three candidates instead of five made the event more streamlind and less gruelling for the audience than it might have been with five and the event had quite a high audience turnout despite the clash with the televised 'Leaders Debate' that excluded Conservative and Lib Dem party leaders.(3) Labour, Lib Dem and Green candidates had mini-meetings in a hall with rotating personalised audiences around them yet also a small time slot for whole hall addressing.
The mini-audiences lasting about 10 minutes consisted of candidate on seat on podium surrounded by semi-circle of about 20 packed audience seats plus standing audience members with a predominantly white and [probably] 6th Form audience from a school that had a hand in the organising and logistics facilitating in one of the most leafy areas of Hampstead & Kilburn constituency west of the Finchley Road or even the Kilburn High Road.
The min-sessions — incorporating candidate inputs from omnibus session that was about themselves and why they're standing for Hampstead & Kilburn constituencyCandidates chaired or facilitated their own mini-sessions.
Lib Dem candidate Maajid Nazaz (medium sized male) stood on podium looking down on his audiences.
- Outlined his history as prisoner of conscience in Egypt leading through his release and political assylum to his working with youth in Brent with mental health problems.
- Said that like most young people in the area he was forced to rent and would never be able to buy when properties are priced at about £2m a house
- answered a few questions, saying that Lib Dems and Nic Clegg its leader had been mistaken in their promises regarding student tuition fees in 2010 when the best Lib Dems could have hoped for was coalition involvment anyway;
- said that we have coalition government through interworking of polls anyway;
- delighted in prospect of online voting and votes for 16 year olds; and the options he gave his audiences for voting excluded by omission the option of voting Green Party.
Labour candidate Tulip Siddiq (very small female) sat on podium looking down on audience
- Delighted in her long-term living in Kilburn and her Kilburn councillor past and human rights charity work while omitting mention of her privileged but tragedy-ridden background.(4)
- Said that a lot of "single mothers have jobs on the side" — or was it that that is a popular misconception; and
- Responded to my
- "'For a more sustainable future while youth unemployment, student debt and unpaid internships upon unpaid internships for 16-23' are more the norm than the exception, the Dept for Work & Pensions should focus on modelling compassionate support.' Discuss" question
- by saying that the main problems are excessive sanctions and zero hours contracts, and Labour would abolish those.
Green Party candidate Rebecca Johnson (medium height) started with her chair on the podium but progressed to being seated off the podium, maybe even being sat on her haunces, looking up at her audience rather than downRebecca Johnson
- Told the audience that she had lived in Kilburn in the past and been one of the Greenham Common women of the 1980s whose campaign managed successfully to remove American Cruise missiles from our shores and thus she had an heritage of 'Talking Truth to Power'. Returning to London for waged work after full-time study, she had moved to Hackney but still delighted in her Kilburn past and really wanted to serve the people of Hampstead & Kilburn constituency.
- Spent perhaps too long at first in her answer and voice projection to one question at one end of the semi-circle of chairs before getting more 'into the groove' of the 'speed dating' format of the event
- Celebrated the interplay between the Green Party of England & Wales' stance of supporting a 'Yes' vote in the Scottish independence referrendum, the politicisation of young people both sides of the England-Scotlan border, and the upsurge of Green Party membership that had resulted.
- Extolled Caroline Lucas' heritage as one pioneering Green Party MP building on common cause with members of other political parties in joint campaigns for the environment and human rights including rights of the most vulnerable in UK society.
- Answered the usual 'wasted vote in a 1st past the post' electoral system question by affirming that if people exercise too much compromise in voting for what they believe in, they will never get it.
For a fuller list of candidates standing for Hampstead & Kilburn constituency and how to contact them, see Candidates (PPCs) for Hampstead & Kilburn.(6)
Questions for Readers
- Apart from matters of 'personal branding style' and 'pedagogy', what impact might Rebecca Johnson's coming off the podium have had on accessibility at an event where there were other dialogues going on concurrently?
- Might that 'unelevated seating position' have been rooted in her Greenham Common activist past?
Notes(1) While the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group is non-party political, the author 'declares an interest' in that he has been a Green Party member since autumn 2005 and a Green Party voter even longer, after having been a Labour Party member 1980-84, Ecology Party member 1984-86, and Lib Dem member 1996-98.
(2) It had earlier been revealed by member Arotina to the KUWG meeting that afternoon that after attending hustings that included Ukip candidates she had been struck by how their panacea for "how we're going to pay for all their bright ideas" had been, "Once we leave the EU, we will have far more money to spare as a country." Yet her eventual research into how much the UK hands over to the EU and how much it gets back, that the UK gets far more from the EU than it spends on the EU.
(3) You can view the Leaders Debate on BBC iPlayer
(5) Kilburn Unemployed site search for hustings