Hustings round-up – and how was it for you?

The panel listens to a question from the audience at the Woolwich Riverside hustings.

The hustings for Charlton and Woolwich Riverside wards have come and gone, and there wasn’t one fist fight to report – barely even a cross word. A good amount of people turned out for both evenings, and those that stayed around to chat at the end seemed on both nights to think that the Charlton Society’s experiment in access to local democracy had been worthwhile. Discussions were civil – audience members had a chance to put to the candidates the local issues that were really bothering them, and candidates responded thoughtfully.

Questions put to the panels ranged widely across local topics: how to tackle youth crime, road safety, air quality, the council’s responsibility for public health and even the future of the Woolwich Ferry were all mentioned. Perhaps you couldn’t make it and you’d like to catch up? If you’re in Woolwich Riverside, and you’d like to find out:

  • why Labour’s Jackie Smith thought maybe one day Woolwich could be like Berlin,
  • which of the candidates had to admit to not having heard of Windrush School or
  • which of the candidates agree with rent control and landlord registration

there’s much much more detail to be found in this collection of recordings and tweets: Woolwich Riverside Hustings.

Or you’re in Charlton ward, and you’d like to know:

  • whose reaction to being shown around cycling infrastructure in the borough was ‘Christ, are these the good bits?’
  • who thinks that the treatment of Charlton House shows Charlton to be ‘an unwanted child’
  • or what the panel as a whole thought that councils should do with their new public health responsibilities

then, likewise, there’s much more for you to take in here:  Charlton Hustings.

In both meetings, one party’s candidates declined the invitation to appear: in Charlton, no Conservative candidates joined the meeting while in Woolwich Riverside none of the Liberal Democrat candidates appeared. In both cases, the Greenwich borough parties offered to send a substitute speaker, but the Charlton Society felt that the meetings would only keep their integrity as local hustings if only the candidates from that ward were on the panel.

It’s probably fair to say that many of the attendees were not entirely new to local politics, and in both meetings the hosts didn’t make a point of asking those submitting questions to declare interests or introduce themselves. It’s probably worth thinking about this for the next time we do something similar in Charlton. At both meetings, questions were asked by people active in party politics and the process might be more transparent if everybody knew who was asking what.

Did you go to one of the meetings? Were you happy with the way the candidates answered? Did you get out of the meeting what you hoped for? If you had anything to suggest to the organisers, what would it be? Let us know in the comments below.

UPDATE – 14th May

The organisers of the hustings meetings have been in touch to offer a correction:

To say “the Charlton Society felt that the meetings would only keep their integrity as local hustings if only the candidates from that ward were on the panel.”  isn’t accurate.

After it became clear that the three Riverside Lib Dems were unable to attend, the organisers went to some considerable effort to include Lib Dem candidates from the next door and nearby wards in the interests of providing as wide a range of views as possible on the night.  However, this was not considered acceptable by other attending candidates, and the organisers agreed that this was not an unreasonable position for them to take.  Consequently, it became impossible to reach a compromise with out-of-ward candidates from the Conservative party for the next night. The organisers were disappointed that in each case major parties were not represented during the discussions but hope that now a precedent has been set for running fair, well moderated and unbiased hustings events, all those seeking election for the future will be keen to attend and make their case in front of the voters.

Apologies to the Charlton Society for the initial error.