So I was at the debate last night. No, not the one in Manchester but a hustings event in Hampstead and Kilburn a key 3-way marginal. Chaired by Sir Peter Stothard it was hosted by St. Mary’s Kilburn- and it seems- was one of many for the candidates in such a high profile seat. In answer to the opening question there was a degree of unanimity when dealing with the ‘local’ aspect of being an MP. Both Ed Fordham (Lib Dem) and Glenda Jackson (Labour) emphasised ‘being a voice’ for those who in the more challenging social circumstances of the seat. Chris Philp (Conservative) was keen to show his credentials as a supporter of social mobility through running a ‘Dragon’s Den’ project and Bea Campbell (Green) reflected on her personal journey, arriving in the East End and gradually moving West (and therefore towards higher social status) but not forgetting the injustices still indemic in poorer communities. I think Fordham captured the mood of the electorate when asked to comment on the trustworthiness of politicians by saying ‘[this is] not a parliament of the people but a snobbish club’ and Campbell crystallised her point, challenging the system with ‘millions marched against the war [in Iraq]… and what difference did it make? What are people supposed to do next?’ Later in the debate, the voting system came under great scrutiny, Jackson declaring enthusiasm for proportional representation, Fordham unsurpisingly so (but scathing of the government’s lack of action… until now) and Philp boldly stating ‘our system is elegant, simple and fair’. Sensing an open goal, Campbell took aim in the top left corner ‘[it is] elegant, simple, stupid and unfair.’ On taxation the regular party lines were adhered to though again, unemcumbered by the expectation of victory Campbell challenged the line that cuts are more necessary than tax rises with ‘do we want to be a scruffy country with a crappy infrastructure?’
The feel of the evening was quite tetchy as you might expect from such a close fight- Glenda Jackson saying it was a 2 way fight between her and the Tories was astounding given that Fordham has been tipped to win by commentators. I think Fordham made the point that many of us are finding to be true – ‘[there’s a] level of engagement I’ve not seen before because the result is in doubt’. If the narrowing of the polls has any effect, it is surely to help us engage the disengaged. This provides us all with a marvellous opportunity. Room for improvement? The range of questions could have been wider but overall, well done St. Mary’s for putting on a great example of a church-based hustings. Now, I must catch up with that other debate some are talking about.
To find out more about church-based hustings click here.