Whilst not quite a hustings veteran I have done a few over the years. I enjoy them, although I still get nervous.
You do live with the fear of being completely stumped by a question. I do not memorise our manifesto or learn whole stacks of statistics, and do not take briefing papers with me. I find that speaking from the heart works for me.
I am not certain how many turned up at St Saviour’s church hall on Thursday night; estimates I have received put it in the 80 – 100 range. It was certainly a lively audience.
The heckling began during my opening remarks which did take me somewhat aback. I was only setting out what I thought was important when choosing who to vote for – I said it was a combination of principles and competence. I am not sure what was especially contentious in that, but the large Tory contingent were determined to give me a hard time.
I kicked off the proceedings, and was last to speak: everything else was sandwiched between.
I sat at the end of the table, next to UKIP’s Brian Otridge (which auto-correction software insists on renaming ‘ostrich’). My opening remarks were limited to two minutes, which was not adequate. However, we all had the same constraint.
It was well chaired, and I am grateful to the Southend Echo for organising it. If I could suggest one improvement it would be for microphones to be used.
I counted eleven questions. These were on the NHS crisis, failing schools, faith and grammar schools, immigration, the European Union, the biggest policy we disagreed with our own parties about, what private members bill would we like to introduce, second homes for MPs, MPs pay, Leigh fishing, can you trust politicians.
I spoke about the need for a properly funded NHS, and that only Labour does this. I would stop the marketization, and would support and work with the local hospital’s management team.
I said academies are turning schools into businesses and are removing local accountability. I also mentioned the unacceptably high number of less than good schools in Southend. I spoke of my preference for universal comprehensive education, and that social mobility was hindered by selective schools.
I said we need a fair immigration system, and that immigration had largely been a good thing for the UK. I spoke of the economic madness of leaving the EU, and the instability that would ensue from two years of debate running up to a referendum.
I could think of no current Labour policy I could disagree with, and that I would like to tweak the Right To Buy legislation so that either a buy-back clause or immediate re-use of funds could be enabled.
I would not need a second home if elected, although I might have to stay in a hotel from time to time. MPs are paid enough, I added.
On Leigh fishing I said the EU rules were wrong and needed changing.
I think we can trust politicians, although some have let us down.
There was some heckling, which is fine. If I could make out what they were saying I replied. It made it lively, and gave the audience a chance to interact with me.
Afterwards one of the hecklers, a Tory, said I was dishonest because I did not put my middle names on my literature. She evidently had no problem with David Amess sticking to his first name and surname. She also did not like me referring to people as comrades – “this is not Soviet Russia”. I did point out that it was a term of affection. She was just not going to like anything I said.
My full name is Julian Gabriel St.John Ware-Lane. Said Tory-Woman thinks it aristocratic, and therefore objectionable. For the record, I am working class and not a member of the aristocracy.