Local politics, National Politics, Politics, Sudbury

Thoughts On My last “question time” Hustings

Picture courtesy Penny Wilby of BestofSudbury

Picture courtesy Penny Wilby of BestofSudbury

Yesterday I did my last hustings of the campaign. For those who do not know the word, I have to explain that they are what have now become known as “Question Time-style debates”.
There have been about seven in all and it is a relief that they are now over but also a slight feeling of sadness. I will miss the pre-hustings nerves, the preparation and the buzz of standing up in front of a room of several hundred people to tell them what I think.
The hustings last night in Sudbury’s St Peter’s Church was a fitting finale, since it was the biggest as well as the last, with some 300-350 people filling the place.
The chair asked beforehand how many people present had not yet made up their minds how they were going to vote – about a third of the hands went up.
At the end he asked how many of those had now decided which way to vote. Some four hands went up.
Someone shouted out to much laughter: “So it’s all been a waste of time”.
So has it been a waste of time? I don’t really think so. For one thing some of those 100 or so people who were undecided will have been given food for thought, even if they are still undecided.
For another, even those who are supposedly “decided” will have been exposed to views that they don’t normally hear. This is particularly true for Green Party views, because the Green political voice is normally so shut out of mainstream media.
People don’t get to hear the view that governments can work efficiently sometimes better than the private sector, that the markets don’t always work, that there are affordable alternatives to austerity and most importantly that economic growth is not automatically “good” when we live in a finite world.
Several people came up to me afterwards to thank me for my passion and said that they liked me, even though they weren’t going to vote for me.
This is frustrating, because of course, it’s nice to be liked, but I want my ideas to be liked enough for people to vote for them. However, people will only start to consider your ideas if they decide they like and trust you, first of all.
For me personally, even if I failed to change a single mind, the experience of doing hustings has been worthwhile. It has taught me never to be afraid of the public and of expressing your beliefs. There will always be people who disagree with some of what you say, but there will always be people who agree with some of it. Many, many people want Trident scrapped, many, many people don’t want to see a bypass built over Sudbury’s water meadows and many many people want the NHS to be restored fully to public hands. To be able to give those people a voice in a public arena is a genuine privilege. Learning to talk to an audience in an interesting way, concisely and without hesitation is a skill I will hopefully retain for the rest of my life.
The great thing is that I am not the only one. All over the country, there are seats like South Suffolk where there has been a Green parliamentary candidate for the first time. There are some 500 Green Party members who will now all have received an on-the-job training in public speaking and debating and broadcast media interviews. What a resource and skillbase for the future.

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