The hustings – did they convince?

7
1976

More than 120 people crowded into the front half of St Mary’s church on Saturday evening (JUne 3) for the hustings organised, once again, by Churches Together.

Chaired by Dick Dengate, the five candidates (including one independent) were all there, in front of an expectant audience. The names of Amber Rudd (Conservative) and Peter Chowney (Labour) were familiar to many but some of the others were not so well known and each candidate had five minutes to introduce themselves and set out their stall.

Nick Perry

Nick Perry (Liberal Democrat) wanted to give six reasons for voting for him, but this proved too many and time ran out before reciting them all. He did, however, make the point that only the LibDems would provide effective scrutiny to the Brexit negotiations. A staunch supporter of the NHS, with a particular interest in mental health, a penny increase in income tax would enable sustainable investment.

Nicholas Wilson (independent) is a single-issue would-be politician who believes all the ills of the world are down to bankers and their corrupt association with governments.

Peter Chowney, currently leader of Hastings council, took the view that as the fifth richest country in the world, we should be able to comfortably afford the NHS, our education system and other public services and be able to deal with coastal deprivation and poverty. He also wanted to see a considerable improvement in the east/west and coast-to-London transport infrastructure

Nicholas Wilson

Michael Phillips (UKIP) was the only speaker to attack another candidate when he attempted to castigate current MP Amber Rudd for daring to try and help make a success of Brexit when she had been firmly in the remain camp during the referendum campaign. He also wanted a cut in foreign aid, internment on a Scottish island for terror “suspects and later produced some interesting maths to demonstrate why the “divorce’ bill from Europe should be almost negligible.

Last to speak was Amber Rudd (Conservative) who candidly admitted that she had been on the side of “Remain”, but as the country had taken a democratic decision to leave, it was the duty of any government to seek the best Brexit deal possible, this would help to encourage a strong economy, which would have a consequent positive effect on all public services.

Peter Chowney

The first question was, should foreign aid be increased, reduced or kept at the same level?

The three main parties were in general agreement that the current level was about right although Perry commented on the need to keep it “well costed”. Rudd said that it was important to make sure it was well and properly spent, and that aid also helped to contribute to our security. Chowney agreed with this and commented that as the world’s fifth richest country we had a moral duty to assist others.  Phillips wanted it substantially reduced and Wilson regarded it as a corrupt plot engineered by the banks (at least, that is what I think he was trying to say).

The next question came very slightly closer to home: Would the candidates agree that the government is soft on crime and the causes of crime and what plans were there to improve community policing?

No, emphatically was the answer from Rudd. They were reaching into the Muslim community to prevent radicalisation and the Home Office has organisations to help prevent the young falling prey to the likes of ISIS.

Michael Phillips

Wilson started to blame the banks and deals with Saudi Arabia but, despite his complaints that he was being censored, was cut short by the chairman who clearly sensed that the audience was getting restless with his single tune. Chowney concentrated on the local effect: 32 PCSOs, he said, had been reduced to five, despite the fact that they are the people who have the confidence of the community and were the front line of local intelligence gathering. Perry said it was a question of resources – currently insufficient – and Phillips went back to the Muslim theme and felt that the innocent Muslims were afraid of their own community. This view got little sympathy from the audience.

There then followed questions on the strength of the economy and whether Brexit could be overturned (a no on this latter question from Rudd and Phillips, Yes after another vote at the end of negotiations from Perry, maybe yes or maybe no from Chowney and, it is all criminal money laundering from Wilson.

It was at about this point in the proceedings that a lady who was amongst a coterie of increasingly noisy Chowney supporters at the back of the audience decided to liven up a debate that so far had been distinctly pedestrian, by first waving a banner she had brought and then moving up the side aisle to shout at the candidates from closer range, until being persuaded to leave. Where was the rotten fruit or bad eggs, this writer wondered. Come back John Prescott, all is forgiven!

Finally the candidates were asked what level of cost should be taken from individuals to pay for care. In view of the average age in the constituency, at last we had a question that had some degree of local relevance. 

Amber Rudd

Sadly time was running out and while Perry and Chowney both kept close to their party line on this, that it should be free (without explaining where the money was coming from to pay for it. Although as we are the fifth richest nation, it would be there, somewhere), Wilson said it was a corrupt scam but neither Rudd or Phillips were given a chance to reply as the chairman decreed that time was up and stopped further comment.

Finally, all were given two minutes to make their last pitch and in all cases it was pretty predictable: Rudd wanted to build on success to date but resisted the temptation to talk about “strong and stable” government; Chowney told us again how wealthy the country is but got the tag line “For the many not the few” wrong;  Perry made a plea for a strong and intelligent opposition; Phillips said it was all about Brexit and only UKIP would ensure that would happen, and for Wilson it was all the fault of the corrupt banks.

The most competent and confident performers were, in this writer’s view, Rudd and Chowney (and probably in that order). The chairman did a good job that, in these circumstances is never easy, and was not intimidated either by the candidates or by the occasional barracking from the audience. Although – and meaning no disrespect at all to Dick Dengate – on wonders whether this is not perhaps a job for someone with professional experience in future. Personally, I was disappointed that there were not more questions on local issues – a lot of what we heard – with the possible exception of the wickedness of the bankers – was regurgitation of national arguments promulgated on our TV screens, radios and in the papers for the last month and it would have been good to hear the candidates thoughts on, for example, our local schools, hospital, local poverty and food banks, communications, traffic, the fishing industry etc. The list could go on.

So will this hustings make a difference to the final result in Hastings and Rye? Very possibly not and the result will be whatever it would have been with, or without it. However it was good to see all the candidates in the flesh, and hear their views straight from their own mouths rather than on printed party propaganda.

The next issue of Rye News will, as usual, go online late on Thursday evening but we will be leaving space on the front page for the Hastings and Rye election result which we will put up just as soon as it is announced. So for those insomniacs among our readers, keep checking the web site throughout the night – you will hear the result here first (probably).

Photos: Gerard Reilly

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7 COMMENTS

  1. this was my question that was accepted by Hustings organisor and never asked

    We were promised HS1 to Hastings by 2017 at last election

    If you are elected what date will we definitely see javelin trains running down marshlink line to Hastings

  2. “…cut short by the chairman who clearly sensed that the audience was getting restless with his single tune. ”
    Was this the point where he rang his bell then tried to take the microphone back?

  3. Great report, thank you, makes me wish I’d been able to be there! Don’t suppose Wilson would agree though and I think we should concede that banks have an extraordinary amount of power, much more than is commonly recognised, and things can certainly go wrong if it is misused. I was sorry not to see more on local issues, especially fisheries and transport.

  4. There is a video circulating that shows that Amber prompted the chair to take the microphone from Nicholas Wilson. While he took a long root to getting to the point of the question asked he had started to say that the Saudi’s are financiers of radical clerics around the world and this is increasing the terror around the world. But the west do not appear to want to challenge the saudis on this. I wonder why?

    I think that it was poor judgement to stop Nicholas Wilson. The chair should have given him the chance to get to the point.

  5. I think this is unfair to Wilson. The audience was not getting restless. There was sympathy in the church for what he was saying. This was quite clear from the reaction when he was stopped.

  6. Re Paul’s question on HS1 to Hastings (and Rye and Bexhill) which was mentioned at the close of the hustings by the chairman but not put to the candidates.

    I believe Paul is mistaken. Having followed the progress of the Javelin project from its inception, I don’t believe there has been any promise of HS1 coming to Hastings in 2017 (although, technically, one Javelin train did visit Hastings last year) – the very earliest date suggested that a Javelin service could be available on the MarshLink was, to my memory, in 2022 and that was based on best case assumptions. As with many infrastructure projects, in reviewing detailed plans, reality sets in and the timescale pushes out.

    MarshLink Action Group has arranged for a representative of Network Rail to make a presentation of their study at 7pm (for 7.15pm) on Thursday 15th June at Rye Town Hall. Come along to hear the current proposals – but it will be a while before you can book your ticket !

  7. There have been a great many comments, both to the paper and to the editor personally, on this article and the majority have related to the heavily edited video extract put on line by Nicholas Wilson, showing only a small part of his answer to a question which had nothing to do with banks or Saudi Arabia. As this was far from obvious in the clip – which was all that most of those commenting had to go by – and as no one knows what was on the note passed by Amber Rudd to the chairman (Mr Wilson has merely made an allegation which others have assumed to be fact) it has been decided that no further comments on this particular subject will be published. In the interests of balance, it should also be recorded that both Amber Rudd and Michael Phillips (UKIP) were prevented from answering a question on the cost of care for the elderly (on the grounds of lack of time) which Mr Wilson had been allowed to answer in full. I haven’t heard that either of them have complained about censorship.

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