Are hustings a thing of the past?

Am I the only person who has been disappointed by the lack of hustings in local constituencies? Reading election literature doesn’t give you a complete picture about candidates, and how they engage with difficult issues – and difficult people – could be crucial to how you’d vote. (OK, other factors like how you’ve always voted, and how your parents voted might also be crucial in NI too.)

logo for CARE's Make The Cross Count initiativeUnder the banner of their Make The Cross Count initiative, the organisation CARE has been encouraging local churches to get together and give local people an opportunity to hear from and address all their local candidates. They even produced a handy How to organise a hustings guide.

Of the eighteen NI constituencies, only Belfast East and North Antrim went ahead with hustings under CARE’s scheme.

Churches in Lagan Valley were due to hold a hustings event, but it seems to have been cancelled. While many unionist politicians are happy to be in government with Sinn Féin, some Protestant churches haven’t moved so far and are still reluctant to invite republicans to events!

To my knowledge, the only hustings in Lagan Valley took place when a number of local schools got together to organise one for students studying Politics (and those in sixth form who turned eighteen before May 6th).

Is this good enough? Churches aren’t the only community organisations that are capable of organising and publicising a hustings. Will anyone bother in March for the Assembly and Council elections?

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  • Sir Herbert Mercer

    Looks like Slugger O’toole’s rapidly becoming a thing of the past: infrequent threads and those that actually get posted don’t get comments.

  • I just blogged a brief account of the North Antrim hustings, hosted at High Kirk Church ………

    I think perhaps i expected too much from the evening which was mildly informative but largely dull and a bit stale. Maybe the candidates are just a dull bunch (as i suggest in my blog post) but they really were very un-enthusiastic except for Jim Allister’s obligatory character assassination of the education minister!

    Order was kept well by the Minister of the Church, who chaired the event but i would imagine things would have gotten heated without his control. There was some heckling from the audience.

    Its disappointing to hear that only a couple of these hustings took place, aside from my slight disappointment it was still a worthwhile event

  • Vicky Ford

    One of the Candidates in Cambridge told me that he has spoken at about 35 hustings events during this election. One, in one of the University Colleges, was attended by around 500 people. This can only be a good thing for democracy. I wonder if it would be better to drop the title “hustings” and call them “election debates”. Keep fighting for them.

  • Here in Cambridge, there’s been so many hustings that if you blinked you missed one!

  • aquifer

    With a ban on public political meetings in council buildings and all sorts of organisations unwilling to host a meeting and split their memberships, the surprise should be that there are any hustings at all.

    Could the BBC not pay for them all, hand out some cameras, and use the best bits?

    I mean, they make it their business to make these chancers look respectable the rest of the time.

    We have had the right honourable members for rental, jobs for the former head boys, expenses for excess, rot repairs, what’s next?

  • PassingThru

    Christain Aid seem to have had a similar scheme.

  • Maybe it is something that can be pushed forward for the Assembly elections which people may feel is more important (i.e. more local and on the doorstep).

    It is a bit disappointing with the number of hustings but maybe more churches can be encouraged for next year (where they can seen how successful these hustings actually were).

  • Apologies – I hadn’t noticed that there were comments pending that hadn’t been automatically published. Don’t get an email, and hadn’t realised I needed to look for them!

  • Danny

    Simple – nobody cares about religion anymore, so get it out of politics.