So it’s [mostly] “no go the election hustings” for the DUP…

So, Jim Wells, despite his fears to the contrary, is going to run for the DUP in South Down. He was kept waiting until the very last weekend before being ratified to run with 43 others as an official DUP candidate in the May election.

In fairness, despite the speculation, it has never been clear just who would have run in his place. But what is clear is that Mr Wells will not be facing any local hustings events.

Arlene Foster and our own David McCann pointed out the limitations of hustings events on Newsline last night…

Certainly, as a rule, they don’t do incumbents many favours. Besides, as noted recently by Professor Niamh Hourihan on RTE recently, the PR STV system gives rise to a transactional politics, which is probably best served by doorstepping than Hustings.

Nevertheless, I doubt the DUP will dump them altogether. The SDLP’s West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan noted “not everyone in the audience is placed there, some of the are genuinely asking questions they want answers to… ”

There are open forums which give a competitive airing to all views on a range of policy subjects. It’s not so much the answers that are wanting at hustings – and in political journalism more generally – but the sort of generative questions that develop light rather than heat.

In the age of instantaneous moral outrage – which is usually partisan and usually aimed at taking out the man rather than playing the ball – it is a risk the DUP wants to manage by largely not going there.

And yet, as Louis Mac Neice noted in his great whimisical poem on the way of the world

The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall forever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.

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  • Francesco

    What’s the best way to find out when and where hustings events take place? Is there any webpage you would recommend?

  • Granni Trixie

    It’s like throwing in the sponge for a political party to say “we don’t do hustings”,bearing in mind that not any one thing makes people vote for a candidate – posters,literature,media appearances all contribute to building an image and spreading widely the numbers of people who feel they “know” the candidate. And ofcourse voter recognition is a key factor in success.

    I attended a discussion a month or two ago in Agape Centre with Duncan Morrow,Clair Hannah,and Emma Pengelly. Now whilst I was not well disposed to EP for obvious reasons this was an opportunity for her to leave a good impression. Instead of which it reinforced my negative view of her. The hustings showed up Her inexperience and lack of ability to think on her feet.

    I say that the DUP are displaying weakness and lack of confidence in their candidates by declaring they “don’t do” hustings. Other parties will surely be out there to take part in any available platforms.

  • Brendan Heading

    The event didn’t only show that Granni. Several questions came from the audience about same sex marriage and as the only major party in the Assembly which opposes it as a matter of policy, the DUP are not well placed to respond to it in front of an audience.

    The party faces the same problem with the FFA abortion issue, or any other issue where the fault lines between the relatively modern social values of a significant proportion of their voter base and the party’s conservative core are exposed. I can see why they’re going to ground.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    If the DUP do not wish to attend any election hustings that is there prerogative. If a was the organiser(s) of such events I would invite other smaller political parties to attend ? I am sure they would be pleased to attend as they never seem to get much invitations !

  • mickfealty

    She makes a fair point about the stuffing of audiences, which I think that was a reference to Downpatrick case (of which we should hear something more concrete in April).

    There’s diminishing value in the one way conversations that are becoming the hallmark of the new-ish social media revolution.

    That said, I used the Mac Neice quote to suggest that the withdrawal method as an answer is insufficient unto the day.

  • Brendan Heading

    I wasn’t disagreeing with that part. These events are likely to be attended by the middle class commentariat.

    Nonetheless, the problem for the DUP is stark. They have policies that are hard to justify in the 21st century – the death penalty, abortion rights, gay marriage, European membership (and the associated undertone of xenophobia) and all the rest. Those policies keep the bible crowd on board on the doorsteps and at the church halls; meanwhile, the more moderate DUP voters are kept at bay with a cloud of ambiguity and the promise that things will change in the future.

  • mickfealty

    And from your pov that’s fair comment. But it isn’t as though they aren’t representing widely held views in holding those positions.

  • chrisjones2

    There are those who will vote fro him come what may – which is probably what worried the DUP should he run as an independent

  • chrisjones2

    …and many of their candidates cant think on their feet or string a coherent sentence together …. thats why they are selected by the Party as the political equivalent of clotheshangers

  • I went to a hustings in 2011 run by development agencies. Jim Wells was the only candidate there who could not bring himself to condemn the death penalty for homosexuals in Uganda.

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