This evening I went to an election hustings to hear the five candidates standing in the Brighton Pavilion constituency. I have been to many such events over the years but I have to say that tonight’s hustings was far and away the best, most up lifting of all the ones I have attended.
This meeting was organised by the Calvary Church in Viaduct Road, and chaired by the Minister of the Church, Philip Wells.
The five candidates, from left to right (politically, not in the photo!) were Caroline Lucas (Green), Purna Sen (Labour), Chris Bowers (Lib Dem), Clarence Mitchell (Conservative), and Nigel Carter (UKIP).
What made this meeting different was that the usual partisan crowd were not there. When they are present, they tend to cheer their hero and barrack their opponents. Tonight the audience listened with respect, the candidates spoke with great sincerity and with not inconsiderable humour. The questions were not predictable. There were no questions on the NHS, housing, or cuts.
The candidates were able to say what they thought the most important issues in the election are:
Chris Bowers said the environment, as did Caroline Lucas who added there was a need to make climate change more real to ordinary people, while Purna Sen said climate justice. Clarence Mitchell said the most important issue was the economy and Nigel Carter said democracy, with reference to Europe.
Other questions covered the pay of supply teachers, abortion (all candidates declared themselves as pro choice) and specifically female gendercide. The candidates answered the questions with much thought, with no party lines being recited.
The final question was very much in keeping with the meeting, each candidate being asked to say what they agreed with or admired about their opponents. Purna Sen praised Clarence Mitchell for his civility in the way he had conducted himself in the face of much hostility. Clarence Mitchell praised Caroline Lucas for making the environment the issue it has become. Chris Bowers said he has great admiration for Caroline Lucas, adding that he, Caroline and Purna Sen agreed on much. Nigel Carter was extremely generous in praise for the other four candidates and endearingly self deprecating about himself.
All five candidates were a credit to their parties and to themselves. If more politicians conducted themselves as Caroline, Purna, Chris, Clarence and Nigel did this evening, the political process would be healthier, more constructive, and much more enjoyable for all.