Last night OH and I attended a local hustings. The word ‘hustings’ comes from the old Norse house thing where a thing means a parliament or discussion, as it still does in Iceland.
Locally these things – I mean these affairs – are usually pretty well run; civilised and with a minimum of shouting, unlike some I’ve seen clips of (though to be fair the clips aren’t likely to give a balanced view). Questions were submitted in advance to all five candidates (Labour, Lib Dem, Green, Tory and another which I’ll come to in a minute) and the hustings was chaired by —– and hosted by Churches Together in Loughborough. This proved in the end to be a significant factor.
When I first read Queenie Tea’s political pitch my reaction was, ‘what a waste of time.’ I couldn’t understand why a couple of artists would choose to faff around standing a non-candidate in an election where momentous issues were to be decided. But Queenie Tea proved to be a welcome bit of light relief and far from seeming to detract from the other candidates, offered some comforting insights as well as tea and biscuits.
Questions ran on the usual lines: Brexit, the NHS (huge support for Labour on this and derision for Jane Hunt’s assertion that under a Tory government the NHS would not be for sale) and the climate emergency. I found the Green candidate disappointing; he was the only BAME member of the panel but I thought failed to show the necessary passion and conviction needed for Green issues in these times (it has long been a regret of mine that I can’t vote Labour and Green at the same time.)
Then the questions diverged a little. As could have been predicted, there was a fairly hostile question on antisemitism in the Labour Party accusing Corbyn of being anti-semitic (lots of no’s.) Stuart dealt with this competently and confidently, saying that there were problems in all parties, that Corbyn was not an antisemite (applause) but that Labour should have done more, and more quickly, to deal with a small group of people who had probably joined in 2015 and who were bringing the party into disrepute. Then came the most bizarre moment of the evening, a long speech (practically a rant) on ‘Christian values’, asking candidates how they would uphold these in the face of the ‘descent into depravity’ of the last 30 years and citing examples of Christians not being able to wear crosses or pray with people in hospital or refuse to bake cakes. There was clearly a lot of unease at the tone of this but here Queenie Tea’s response was the most sensible, blaming rampant consumerism for the decay in values while the others waffled a little and failed to pick up on the homophobia and lack of cultural diversity implicit in the question.
At this point I was waving my hand around furiously as there was a comment I really wanted to make – but sadly we were out of time so I’ll have to tell you instead. Churches Together in England have rejected a Quaker nominee for president because she is a lesbian married to another woman, which has caused great hurt and upset in the Quaker community as well as among GSM people. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog I have come across many examples of homophobia in the church and a few years ago walked out of a sermon to find a young man weeping outside. How can this be Christian? On the plus side last year I went to a Pride service in Loughborough which was the best service I’d ever been to. Now I ask you, which speaks more of Christ – condemnation or inclusion? There’s a very apt saying going around Facebook: ‘if you want to put the Christ back in Christmas feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick, help the poor.’ Those are Christian values.