The Importance of Leadership Hustings

One of the things no internal election should be without is hustings. Those set piece debates are the must have addition that makes party members feel they’ve actually had the opportunity to quiz the candidates in person.

Sadly not everyone lives in London (joke!) so it’s not always that easy to get everyone in a room together and now the election timetable has changed a hustings at conference won’t be much use as the election will be over by then.

The Green Party has experimented with online hustings in the last few years with varying success, and this blog will certainly be putting questions and interviewing the candidates to help members make their choice. We need to improve the way we help people engage with internal democracy and making some effort to ensure members are making informed choices seems really important to me, particularly for those candidates who may not have a national profile.

 

But what’s realistic?

However, let’s be realistic, it’s not reasonable to expect candidates to do a tour of fifty branches or more which would be incredibly strenuous for them, financially very costly and possibly end up with a series of meetings with more candidates than audience in chilly, dingy rooms.

One way of upping the number of events candidates might be able to attend may be to stack hustings. Say a breakfast hustings in Manchester, an afternoon meet in Liverpool and an evening debate in Leeds (I’ve not checked the train timetables to see if that’s possible, but you get the idea). That way by devoting three Saturdays to meeting the members the candidates could visit nine hubs, and hopefully be near enough to members not in those towns that they can find one event they can reasonably travel to.

If that sounds like too much effort to our potential leaders then, perhaps, they shouldn’t be running. It would be nice to think that those who want to lead the party might be up for meeting as much of it as they can, without being ridiculous about it.

Add to this some videos, candidate websites, the official mailed out candidate booklet, etc. and we have ourselves a leadership campaign where the majority of members at least have the chance to engage if they want to.

That does require a little bit of national coordination and regional enthusiasm to make it work. If local parties don’t really want to meet the candidates there’s not much you can do, but I hope the leadership question is interesting enough to at least book a room convenient to the train station.

I’d love to see more hustings and opportunities to meet candidates than we’ve had in previous years. After all you can’t really have democracy without real discussion.

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2 Comments

  1. The “hub” debates idea is a good one. It does, however, beg the question of where the hubs should be. Obviously they need to be easily accessible by public transport, which probably means being in the middle of big cities.

    Somewhere in London is obviously going to be one of them. Cardiff and Birmingham give convenient access for Wales and much of the Midlands. The obvious possible venues for those in the South West would be Bristol or Bath. You’ve named three northern cities (Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds). Looking at that list, I think it the only major gaps are some eastern parts of the country, and places like Cornwall or Anglesey, which are a long way away from anywhere.

    And one obvious thing you don’t mention is that it would be incredibly useful to ensure that as many of the hustings as possible were recorded and put online.

  2. I agree. Whatever happens it will probably be imperfect, however, it has to be better than the way we’ve done it in previous years.

    I think recording hustings is a good idea, although I’d be interested if people prefered them not to be so that there are some spaces where members can express awkward thoughts. I don’t know of any potential scandals but say someone wanted to say We did well keeping x out of the media which would have hurt us…” or “my branch is collapsing and are target ward is crumbling, thankfully labour haven’t realised…” I think it might be useful to have spaces for those kinds of questions.

    However in general I’m for as much of it as possible being in the public domain partly because it makes it more accessible for members!

    Bristol could be very good for South Wales. Cambridge has good transport links as does Hull. But one factor will be that the local party is able to get a good turnout – otherwise it’s not worth their while.

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