Hustings or Public Meetings?
Bring back the old time politics.
I long for the excitement of public meetings of my youth. Politicians spoke at length, developed arguments and preached with passion and sincerity. Questions were always invited. The occasions were uplifting, lively, exciting and informative.
In my eight General Election campaigns, I have attended all Hustings to which I have been invited. This is against the advice given to all sitting MPs by their own parties. They believe it gives an equal platform to challenging candidates and reduces the value of incumbency.
Hustings are displays of conflicts where the weapons are shallow sound bites. Public meetings can be constructive, educational and inspiring. In this election I intend to concentrate my energies on public meetings.
Sitting Tory MP Mark Robinson in 1987 dodged the four Hustings held. Since then I have attended about 25. In the 2015 Election there were games played. One candidate attended one school hustings but made an excuse to be absent from all public ones. A candidate from another constituency was substituted. He was a disruptive nuisance and soured the atmosphere of calm and respect among the other candidates. A Hustings was held to which I and other main candidates were not invited. The organisers criticised us afterwards for non-attendance! The interloper candidate of 2015 has resigned from his party and is unlikely to trouble Newport voters again.
While I enjoy the cut and thrust of debate of Hustings, sitting MPs can only claim the same speaking time as all other candidates including those who have little or no chance of success. This encourages frivolous candidates to stand. The Husting debates often have half a dozen candidates when the realistic choice for the electorate is between two or three candidates. There is also a sense of futility in the Hustings because parties send along their faithful supporters. Very few uncommitted voters bother. I have never known a case of anyone being converted to a different point of view at a Hustings. I am not saying that I will not attend any Hustings this time but they are not top of my priorities especially as Theresa May is running away from debates. But I will probably find invitations to well-rum Hustings irresistible.
But the best use of my time is in direct contact with the voters. At the last election I had direct conversations with 2,000. I hope to exceed that this time. Our canvassing work will be the most ambitious ever. The Tories planned to abolish the Newport West Seat. Wales would have been robbed of 11 seats. Now there will be a new lease of life for Newport West and other traditionally Labour constituencies until 2022.
Newport West Labour will also be active in social media. I am always available to speak to organisations or individuals. It is in direct communications with uncommitted voters where elections are won.
Soon I will publish the dates and venues of my public meetings.
See you there.