My first hustings (with scores)
I’m not sure why I hadn’t been to a hustings meeting before last week, but anyway, this was my first. One of the local Church of Scotland ministers here in the Dumfries and Galloway constituency acted as a capable Dimbleby figure, a position he has held in previous GE hustings. The questions had all been submitted in advance.
I won’t bore you with the minutiae, but here are summaries from the four candidates representing Labour, the Tories, SNP and LibDems. The very first question was about a local sewage station and the candidates agreed, so I’ll start with the second question:
Q2) Somebody asked what could be done to help people have cheaper petrol and diesel in this and other rural areas when we rely on cars so much.
Labour candidate and outgoing MP, Russell Brown, claimed that the tax on fuel was greater pre-1997. It was also claimed that the SNP (Scottish ‘Government’) had increased rates for small filling stations so they pay the same per square foot as the big supermarkets.
The Lib Dem, one Richard Brodie, called for more tax on aviation fuel which is very lightly taxed compared to what we put in our cars. He was the only candidate who mentioned ‘global warming’ and carbon credits.
SCORES SO FAR: LAB 4; CON 3; SNP 1; LIB 0
Q3) The next question was a concern about a hung parliament and what compromises the candidates would be prepared to make to work with the other parties.
Andrew Wood kicked off for the SNP and said there would be no compromise on scrapping Trident, ID cards and the Scottish Office and rejigging the House of Lords.
Peter Duncan, who was our Tory MP before 2005 when New Labour stole the new constituency with their false promises, sensibly warned against backroom deals. He claimed that the most important thing was tackling poverty at home and abroad.
Labour’s Russell Brown wouldn’t compromise on benefits and pensions or, quite bizarrely, health and safety at work. I think Labour have done enough compromising on pensions all by themselves, don’t you?
The Lib Dem wants a “fairer society” with no income tax on the first £10,000 earned. I could go with that, but he didn’t mention their plans to add VAT to new houses. Funny that.
SCORES FOR THIS ROUND: LAB 0; CON 2; SNP 1 (for ID cards); LIB 1
Q4) The next question was posed by the minister’s teenage son, who asked about lowering the voting age to sixteen and about proportional represention.
The SNP chap put up a good argument for votes at 16. I disagree with him, but I will give him points for making me think more about it. The Lib Dem also wants votes at 16, and obviously PR. Labour’s Russell Brown was “still to be convinced” about votes at 16 and promised a referendum on voting reform. The Tory was also still unconvinced on votes at 16 and ruled out PR due to the importance of the link between an MP and his constituency. He also asked if we were prepared to accept the twenty or so BNP MPs that PR would produce.
SCORES FOR THIS ROUND: LAB 3; CON 4; SNP 2; LIB 0
Q5) Next up was a question from Tory councillor John Dougan about MPs’ expenses: how did the four candidates propose to rebuild trust and confidence?
The Lib Dem wants MPs to be required to have no other employment outside of politics. He wants House of Lords reform (naturally) so that peerages can’t be bought and wants ‘processes in place’ to prevent MPs fiddling.
The Tory says that MPs should view their job as a community service and that constituents should have the right of recall if they are not satisfied with their MP.
The Labour man promised a tighter regime in the next parliament and that every detail would be published. It will be ‘a world apart’.
The SNP chappie called, not unreasonably, for everything that was wrongfully taken to be paid back. He also issued a timely reminder that the power lies with the electorate. Well, it should, but it doesn’t because nine out of ten people still vote for the same old parties that promise, but never deliver.
SCORES FOR THIS ROUND: LAB 0; CON 4; SNP 3; LIB 0
Q6) A young lady asked why herself and fellow graduates had difficulty finding employment and therefore also housing, when single mothers seem to get everything they need on benefits.
The Tory said local people should have a priority when houses become available, which doesn’t really address the situation even if it might sound appealing. He identified that more needs to be done to address the changes in society that have increased the demand for housing.
The Labourite admitted there are fewer and fewer employment opportunities in this part of the large constituency and that there are “no easy answers” and also conceded there is a “real lack of housing”.
What a damning indictment of thirteen years of New Labour’s mismanagement! No jobs and no houses. Just millions of graduates with nothing to do, stuck at home with their parents. The situation is so dire that Russell Brown didn’t even try to weasel his way out with outrageous lies.
The Lib Dems propose a £10,000 income tax threshold and to bring thousands of derelict houses onto the market.
Mr Wood for the SNP correctly identified that more council houses are needed to replace the ‘right to buy’ sell-offs and reflect the changes in society. He claimed that the Westminster government has £300 million pounds for new affordable housing which they won’t release.
SCORES FOR THIS ROUND: LAB 0; CON 1; SNP 2; LIB 1
Q7) An elderly lady asked about euthanasia. It wasn’t clear if she approved or was worried.
The biggest surprise to me was that Russell Brown, outgoing MP for abortion-loving, warmongering, criminal-excusing, blood-stained New Labour ‘couldn’t support euthanasia’ and wanted more palliative care. Peter Duncan for the Tories was against ending life at either end. Mr Wood for the SNP wouldn’t rule it out completely, but as Mr Duncan said, where do you draw the line?
SCORES FOR THIS ROUND: LAB 3; CON 5; SNP 0; LIB 0
Q8) Sam Scobie, brother of Labour councillor Willie, asked about spending priorities and in particular about education and NHS cuts.
Of course, nobody would admit to ‘frontline services’ being in any jeopardy. The Lib Dems have apparently identified £15 billion worth of savings which can be made, including scrapping ID cards.
SCORES FOR THIS ROUND: LAB 0; CON 0; SNP 0; LIB 1 (for mentioning scrapping ID cards)
Q9) The final question was about us being cheated out of the referendum on the EU constitution.
Russell Brown claimed the Lisbon Treaty was totally different to the original Constitution (naturally). Mr Brodie for the Libs thinks Britain can be in the ‘centre of things’. Mr Brown claimed that an independent Scotland would need to reapply for EU membership. Like we’d want to. The SNP chap wants the UK to have the same relationship with the EU as Norway. He was reminded that Norway isn’t in the EU, but he was adamant that they are.
SCORES FOR THIS ROUND: LAB 0; CON 2; SNP 1; LIB 0
So let me tot up the scores and see who has won…….
Here are the results…..
1st – Peter Duncan (Tory) – 21 points
2nd equal – Russell Brown (Labour) – 10 points
2nd equal – Andrew Wood (SNP) – 10 points
4th – Richard Brodie (Lib Dem) – 3 points