The third in the series of hustings organised in Sidmouth (for District,Town and Parliamentary elections, respectively), admirably had all five of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) there to meet the public face to face.
Andrew Chapman (UKIP), Hugo Swire (Cons) , Stuart Mole Lib Dem), Claire Wright (Ind) and Steve Race (Labour) gave their views clearly and characteristically, from their various standpoints, showing that politicians are NOT all the same!
The evening began with an element of almost high comedy, as a phalanx of Tory supporters arrived half an hour early, having been informed in an e-mail from the party office of the wrong start time…rather conveniently enabling them to claim the front row seats.
There was not enough time to cover all the questions submitted, but topics were wide-ranging. They included Trident,and defence spending; decarbonising the energy sector; provision of mental health services; and housing figures in East Devon’s latest draft Local Plan.
The audience was clearly strongly divided, but for the most part listened attentively to the speakers.,although there were outbreaks of heckling when the Party lines were rolled out, as when Hugo Swire (Con) said repeatedly that Labour + the SNP would make a chaotic combination in government; and UKIP’s Andrew Chapman insisted our housing shortage was caused by EU immigrants. There was also applause, as when Claire Wright declared, in her closing speech, that as an MP she would never belittle people who were poorer than herself.
At the end of the meeting, VgS Chair, Dave Bramley, praised the courage of the five PPCs, for being prepared to stand on their platform in front of the large audience (about 200 people), and answer questions in person. Regrettably, the bulk of the District Councillors representing Sidmouth, sitting in those front row seats last night, had not been so keen to do so themselves, having boycotted the previous two Sidmouth hustings as “too political”, we hear. Last night all that was required of them was to clap in unison, on cue.
EDW note: If the hustings in progress right now, at St Martins School, Cranbrook, is equally well-attended….is it a sign of the times?