It’s a funny word, hustings. It sounds like Hastings, which of course means ‘things said on the spur of the moment to explain to someone who comes into a room unexpectedly, precisely what you are doing.’
Which, now I come to think of it, may not be too different from Hustings: policies made up on the spur of the moment to explain to electors who come into the room precisely what you plan to do after the election.
Be that as it may (with a small ‘m’, since May declines to debate with anyone), last night’s hustings in Loughborough were by all accounts much more civilised than the TV debate. I have yet to catch up with this as my arse was on a chair in St Peter’s Centre, listening to five local candidates set out their stall. It was a good debate, with questions previously submitted (mine didn’t get in, sadly, though I did squeeze in a comment) – and if the mood of that meeting is anything to go by, the Tories will get short shrift. Nicky Morgan comes across as pleasant and reasonable: she is well-thought of locally and in my seven months here I have come across her three or four times at local events. So far so good: but her voting record is appalling; she lives in a six-bedroom house in the county and frankly I wouldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her: underneath the charm there is a sly manipulative streak that I do not like.
It is fairly typical I suppose that out of the five candidates we know three personally: Phillip Leicester of the Greens is a stalwart of Friday Room discussion group and spoke eloquently and passionately about Green policies and the need for a more representative system than ‘first past the post’. Jewel Miah, the Labour candidate and a local guy, spoke well though I could have wished for a tad more passion, and David Walker, who I know from Quaker Meeting, was also eloquent and persuasive. In addition to Nicky Morgan (sad that the only woman there was a Tory) was the UKIP guy who spoke somewhat haltingly didn’t seem to persuade many people, though he was, by UKIP standards, fairly civilised.
I was determined to get in a comment about the NHS and seized my chance in the middle of a question about public services, expressing my deep concern about the likelihood of it being parcelled up and sold off to ‘the likes of Richard Branson and US insurance companies.’ This got a huge round of applause, which was very heartening.
So all in all, a good hust. But it is important to remember that this was an event organised by Loughborough churches and as such may not represent the town as a whole.
But I’m hopeful. I get more hopeful with every day.
Vote Labour (or anyone to get the Tories out)
PS I have just found out that ‘hustings’ comes from the Old Norse ‘husthing’: hus meaning ‘house’ and ‘thing’ meaning assembly or parliament. So now we know.