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Candidates at the HOT/HIP hustings at White Rock Theatre. Left to right: Nicholas Davies (Communist Party of Britain), Lucian Fernando (Reform UK), Guy Harris (LibDem), Becca Horn (Green), Helena Dollimore (Labour and Co-operative), Phil Colley (Workers Party of Britain) and Sally-Ann Hart (Conservative). Paul Crosland (Independent) was unable to make the hustings due to illness. Photograph by Erica Smith.

Candidates do hustings

The final stages of the General Election led to several hustings locally, as the eight candidates for Hastings & Rye constituency sought to be elected as our MP on Thursday 4 July. Those attending enjoyed the events. Bernard McGinley reports.

The Electoral Commission gives a definition:

“A hustings is a meeting where election candidates or parties debate policies and answer questions from the audience. Hustings provide voters with an opportunity to hear the views of candidates or parties.”

The Surfers Against Sewage hustings was held on the beach. Candidates are seated – visible from left to right, Helena Dollimore (Labour), Becca Horn (Green), Guy Harris (LibDem). The man standing with the microphone is Surfers Against Sewage CEO, Giles Bristow, who chaired the event. Photograph by Rakesh Solanki.

So it was that on 25 June at Goat Ledge there was a beach hustings by Surfers Against Sewage, whose battle bus (on a small tour of Great Britain) was messaging nearby: ‘604, 833 sewage discharges across the UK in 2023’. A small but appreciative crowd heard five of the candidates explain their views on the water industry nationally and especially locally. Bulverhythe and the Town Centre have their own testimonies. Elsewhere, Southern Water damaged local businesses (and Jack-in-the-Green) when the water supply was cut during the Early May Bank Holiday weekend.

X marks the spot

Alphabetically the slate for the Hastings & Rye constituency is:

Phil Colley – Workers Party of Britain
Paul Edward Crosland – Independent
Nicholas Davies – Communist Party of Britain
Helena Dollimore – Labour Party
Lucian Fernando – Reform UK
Guy Gillan Harris – Liberal Democrat
Sally-Ann Hart – Conservative (MP since 2019)
Becca Horn – Green Party

The White Rock Theatre hustings was so popular that it was staged in the main auditorium rather than the Studio theatre space.

HOT & HIP collaborate

At the White Rock Theatre on Thursday 27 June, all but Paul Crosland (who is not well) attended. The hustings was co-sponsored by local publications HOT and HIP (Hastings Online Times and Hastings Independent Press). Interest caused the venue to be switched from the Sussex Room (downstairs) to the main theatre. A large crowd enjoyed the free meeting though the panel – like the crowd – was very well behaved. The incidence of Swiftian (Jonathan not Taylor) savage indignation was nil. (Phil Colley’s sincere opposition to the carnage in Gaza was marked however.)

The hustings formats aimed at a consistency of treatment: the same amount of time for opening statements, and for answering questions. Issues addressed were across the expected spectrum: the difficulty of paying bills, severe and apparently incessant water pollution (aka failure of regulation), housing policy (including rents, evictions and airb’n’b), immigration of different types, transport policy, Gaza, Brexit (and its possible reversal), domestic violence, local government finance, child care and others.

Holding Southern Water to account was a commitment for all, but emphases varied. (Reform UK advocated nationalisation.) Asked about the situation in Gaza, Nick Davies said it was not a war but a massacre, genocide. Lucian Fernando for Reform UK declared his opposition to antisemitism, and that the wellbeing of pensioners and others was more of a priority. It was an unexpected Little Englander response, as if Britain didn’t need a foreign policy. LibDem candidate Guy Harris had been to Gaza and was more forthright.

Here is the video record of HIP HOT HUSTINGS 2024

Rye finale

The third event was in Rye on Saturday 29 June, at St Mary’s church in the centre. Again all available candidates were there. The rector, Rev Paul White, MC-ed with aplomb. The format was slightly different but the themes were familiar: what to do about Southern Water’s terrible record, local homelessness, the National Health Service, the burden of university fees and interest rates, five Prime Ministers since 2010, and the likelihood or not of serious change under a Starmer government.

Helena Dollimore addresses the Rye hustings, flanked by Phil Colley and Nick Davies on his right, and by Lucian Fernando, Guy Harris and Sally-Ann Hart on his left.

On education the current strife between the University of Brighton Academies Trust (UBAT) and the National Education Union (NEU) was raised, concerning apparent mishandling of school funding. Teachers and parents as well as pupils are indignant about the issue. Sally-Ann Hart seemed seriously sympathetic (and even mentioned possible criminality), as did Guy Harris who has a direct parental interest. For the Greens, Becca Horn advocated returning schools to local education authority control. She spoke with knowledge and poise about matters beyond her water specialism, such as economic policy, educational problems and the climate crisis.

Polls firmly predict that the next MP for Hastings & Rye will be Labour’s Helena Dollimore. Asked to indicate a single policy disagreement with her party leader, she copped out and advocated more women’s health care, in due course. By contrast Phil Colley spoke about his disagreement with George Galloway about the Uighur people in China, who were not just oppressed but supplanted.

Sally-Ann Hart spoke in detail about social care funding and financial caps. Lucian Fernando spoke of tax reforms to benefit the less well-off. Nick Davies addressed the need to engage with the EU customs union and the European Free Trade Association. Guy Harris spoke of the realities of political publicity, and LibDem tussles with the Scottish National Party. Becca Horn explained how the Greens’ system of party discipline was different.

All three events were informative and worthwhile. The civility of tone from all was notable. It’ll never catch on.

Thursday 4 July

On election day, polling stations are open on Thursday from 7am to 10pm. People aspiring to vote should remember to bring photographic ID, now necessary (for details see Getting ready to vote).

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Posted 13:21 Monday, Jul 1, 2024 In: Politics

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