Thursday, 8 May 2014

European Election Hustings - May 2014

BFTF attended a European Election Hustings today and found it a very interesting experience.

Organised by Himmah, Engage and Radio Dawn 107.6FM, the hustings had representation from the Labour(Linda Woodings), LibDems (Bill Newton Dunn) and Conservatives (Brendan Clark-Smith). Ukip were invited but did not attend and, unfortunately, a communication error meant that the invitation to the Green Party was not sent.

The event started with an introduction to the EU political process, trends in voting and how the proportional voting system means that minority (sometimes far-right) groups can get elected with a relatively small part of the vote. The best defence agains this disturbing trend was said to be for more people to vote!

Then each candidate gave a three minute introduction to their policies - which was genuinely interesting, as it turned out.

And then it was time for the main event, a series of "Question Time" questions and answers - with Engage's National Director for Communities, Azad Ali , very capably fulfilling the role of "Dimbleby" and keeping the candidates - and the audience - to time and to order.

L-R : Brendan Clarke-Smith(C), Azad "Dimbleby" Ali,
Bill Newton Dunn(LD) and Linda Woodings(L)

The discussion covered a lot of topics, raging from "human rights" to "job protection", with a strong focus on foreign policy and hate-crime. BFTF could write at some length about the questions and answers that were given, but isn't going to, for the following reasons:

i) Not sure notes are 100% accurate.

ii) It's unfair to quote comments that the candidates said the heat of the moment and which were not carefully considered statements of policy - although BFTF will say that the candidate who thought that the EU should be "less about justice" may want to reconsider that, rather startling, comment.

iii) Issues are often complex, and can't be dealt with properly in the space of a sound bite or two.

But, make no mistake, this was a valuable event to attend, and the questions and answers really brought our the differences between the parties and the candidates - far more so than is ever the case in TV, radio or press coverage. The candidates made a number of points and described aspects of EU legislation (both postive and negative) that really gave BFTF pause for thought and lines for further inquiry.

Certainly, BFTF's views of the candidates, and their parties, changed during the course of the event.

Just in case it provides ideas for others, here are a few questions that BFTF had prepared (a couple of which BFTF actually got to ask!)

The current TTIP treaty may make it impossible for the NHS to resist aggressive marketing from US healthcare firms, with the potential for a race-to-the-bottom, lowest-bidder-wins healthcare environment. What are the parties doing to prevent this happening?

Has the EU stopped another major European War happening over the last 60 years?

Can the candidates say something complimentary about a policy from one of the other parties?

Before the last General Election, David Cameron said that there would be no top-down reorganisation of the NHS - and then proceeded to do exactly that. If a senior political figure can lie to the country in such a way, why should people trust a single thing any of the candidates have to say?

Penultimately, BFTF was touched by a closing comment from one of the candidates who said that they hoped we would not have to wait five years for the next hustings and that this dialogue was something that "should continue".

Almost lastly, BFTF has had some dialogue with MEPs on the issues of The Anti-Money Laundering Directive and also Food Labelling.

And genuinely lastly, here are all the candidates for the East Midlands Region in the 2014 European Elections on 22nd May. Ask them questions, make your choice and make sure you vote !!!

Labour
Glenis Willmot, Linda Woodings, Khalid Hadadi, Nicki Brooks, Rory Palmer

Conservative
Emma McClarkin, Andrew Lewer, Rupert Matthews, Stephen Castens, Brendan Clarke-Smith

Lib Dem
Bill Newton Dunn, Issan Ghazni, Phil Knowles, George Smid, Deborah Newton-Cook

UKIP
Roger Helmer, Margot Parker, Jonathan Bullock, Nigel Wickens, Barry Mahoney

Green Party
Kat Boettge, Sue Mallender, Richard Mallender, Peter Allen, Simon Bales

BNP
Cathy Duffy, Robert West, Bob Brindley, Geoff Dickens, Paul Hilliard

English Democrats
Kevin Sills, Dave Wickham, John Dowle, Oliver Healey, Terry Spencer

An Independence from Europe
Chris Pain, Val Pain, Alan Jesson, John Beaver, Carl Mason,

Harmony Party
Steve Ward

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