The stage is set
You can blame the televised debates. These days we’ve all been trained by the broadcasters to expect slick performances, soundbite put downs and a few good gags from any gathering of politicians.
Although it wasn’t exactly like that when the town’s election candidates appeared at Richmond School for a hustings event – and maybe the better for it.
As one member of the audience said to me at the end, ‘at least they all seem very sincere’.
Up on stage the seven hopefuls were presented with questions submitted in advance and, after giving short opening statements, were given a short amount of time to tackle each question.
The questions ranged from the likely future for school leavers to opinion on climate change and included foodbanks and the NHS.
The candidates from the main political parties gave, as you’d expect, very prepared responses based on their manifestos so we had the pension triple lock (Sunuk, Cons), the lower income tax (Harris, Lib dem), An EU referendum (Cooke, UKIP), protection of the NHS (Hill, Labour) and action on climate change (Rowe, Green).
That left the two independent candidates to put forward their views and differences. John Blackie gave a typically lively account of himself as being ‘unashamedly local’ and Robin Scott reminded the audience that he was locally educated.
The questions put forward via the Richmond Noticeboard weren’t asked – but any of the candidates who wish to answer them via the comments below are very welcome.
- The first, a simple one – if successful, would the candidate be able to live on the £67K MPs salary or would they be continuing in business/other jobs?
- Secondly, a two part question – Richmondshire is the worst place in the country for benefit sanctions, could the candidates offer any explanation for that? Did it surprise/shock them?
But of course it wasn’t only policy that the audience had come for – looking the candidates in the eye is what a local hustings is all about and audience reaction is very telling.
There seemed to be some unity via the audience with revulsion that places like Richmond have foodbanks.
There were even some shouts from the floor – most notably to the UKIP candidates’ views about the causes of climate change.
And there was some humour. If there was a soundbite moment, it probably belonged to Rowe with his quip abut the ‘six shades of grey’ sitting alongside him as he urged the audience to vote for colour – green colour of course!
What did you think of the event? We’d love to hear via the comments below.
* We had hoped to livestream the event last night but some sort of incompatibility with the school’s wifi connections (possibly a firewall) blocked that possibility and the town’s 3G connectivity just doesn’t have enough juice. Perhaps as well that all the candidates seem to have broadband improvements in their sights. We may still be able to salvage a short clip to give a flavour of the event later.