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Hustings postponed in wake of Manchester attack

We have had to cancel tonight’s hustings at the Sherriff Centre.

Following the terrible attack in Manchester last night, which has left 22 people dead and dozens more injured, the political parties have suspended campaigning.

Sadly this sort of disruption of the democratic process is surely one of the aims of terrorism. While calling a temporary halt to the campaign is understandable at the national level, and of course in Manchester, I believe the hustings would have been an opportunity for West Hampstead to come together as a community and pay its respects to the people caught up in this unimaginably awful situation, while acknowledging that sensitive and thoughtful political debate can continue even as we mourn for the victims.

We will try and reschedule the hustings, and keep you informed. Thanks to those of you who had already submitted questions. Hopefully they can still be asked

The 2015 #Whampstead hustings

WHL Hustings 2017: Tuesday 23rd May 7.30pm

The 2015 #Whampstead hustings

The 2015 West Hampstead Life/Sherriff Centre hustings

H&K promises once again to be closely fought battle and West Hampstead is the marginal bit of a marginal constituency.

Given the snap election, hustings have been thin on the ground in 2017 – in fact we don’t know of any large-scale hustings at all. We’re therefore very pleased to announce that we’ve teamed up again with the Sherriff Centre and you’ll have the chance to grill your candidates on Tuesday evening at St James’ Church.

Many of you will remember that we held a successful hustings in 2015, with more than 200 people attending. We appreciate this year’s is short notice, but hopefully lots of you will be able to make it.

To make the evening flow smoothly, we’re encouraging you to send questions in advance – the candidates will not see these beforehand. We will then ask some of the popular submitted questions before handing over to the floor.

To send a question, simply drop me an email before midday on Tuesday. There will also be a question box in St James’ Church over the next few days.

Format:
Each candidate will get a 4-minute slot to pitch themselves, and then we will structure the evening in three parts. First, questions on Brexit, then questions on other national issues (incl. foreign policy), and then questions on local issues. If we have time then there’ll be time for free questions at the end.

Doors open at 7pm, we will start at 7.30pm. We will aim to finish around 9.15pm. The Sherriff Centre café/bar will be open. We’d like to encourage floating voters to sit at the front (but you might need to get there early).

Live streaming
We are planning to livestream the event on Facebook in case you can’t make it. You’ll need to Like the West Hampstead Life FB page and keep your eyes peeled around that time.

We very much hope you can make it. All the predictions are that this will be a tight race – come and hear from the candidates and make an informed choice.

The 2015 #Whampstead hustings

Listen: Candidates respond in hugely popular election hustings

Hampstead & Kilburn hustings West Hampstead Life turnout_700

Fantastic turnout for the hustings

St James’s church filled up fast as locals poured in for the West Hampstead Life hustings at the Sherriff Centre. US social and political commentator PJ O’Rourke was in the front row for a BBC Radio 4 documentary; Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis was a couple of rows further back – off-duty, though still tweeting; and a journalist from the Independent tried to ask me what I thought of Tulip. Meanwhile, the rest of the nave was chockablock with locals eager to hear what the five Hampstead & Kilburn candidates had to say.

Tulip Siddiq Hampstead Kilburn West Hampstead Life hustings

Tulip Siddiq (Labour)

Simon Marcus Hampstead Kilburn West Hampstead Life hustings

Simon Marcus (Conservative)

Maajid Nawaz Hampstead Kilburn West Hampstead Life hustings

Maajid Nawaz (Liberal Democrat)

Rebecca Johnson Hampstead Kilburn West Hampstead Life hustings

Rebecca Johnson (Green)

Magnus Nielsen Hampstead Kilburn West Hampstead Life hustings

Magnus Nielsen (UKIP)

Then it was time for the questions. Most people were reasonably good about asking fairly succinct questions, though one or started to ramble. Why do people do that!? Topics ranged from the opening gotcha on TfL’s changes to the bus routes to housing to foreign policy and homophobia in religion. Listen to the whole glorious event below (apologies to Simon, we missed the opening couple of lines of his speech, but you can watch that on the video below – the audio quality on the video drops off later, so I’d recommend the audio version overall).

We’ll dive into more specific answers over the course of the week.

Photos courtesy of Eugene Regis (more photos here)

Excitement builds (photo via Richard Olszewski)

Election Special: Hear the candidates in their own words

As people gathered outside Emmanuel School on Monday night for the hustings, we were inside trying to get microphones to work. Despite one or two technical glitches early on, the message still came across loud and clear – people remain interested in what their politicians have to say.

Excitement builds (photo via Richard Olszewski)

Excitement builds (photo via Richard Olszewski)

The livestream of the event sadly failed (note to the school: Get a better Wifi connection!), but we do have a record of the whole evening, with just over a minute missing.

If you’re not hardcore enough for the whole thing, then here’s how the evening played out in bitesize pieces.

First up we had the three-minute party speeches.

Keith Moffitt for the Liberal Democrats focused on their record as councillors across the two wards

Ian Cohen for the Conservatives stressed their candidates’ expertise and focused heavily on the local issues

Philip Rosenberg for Labour talked about the party’s record in the Town Hall under the pressure of budget cuts

Juan Jimenez for the Green Party (apologies to the Greens, but this is where we lost a minute of the recording)

Magnus Nielsen for UKIP talked a lot about his family history but less about what he’d do for locals.

Dave Pearce for TUSC (Trade Union and Socialist Coalition) talked about cuts, jobs and housing security.

We then went on to discuss:

Rubbish – with issues of costs, enforcement and the contract with Veolia coming to the fore

Schools – specifically the different parties’ view on whether they support the proposed free school in the area.

Mansion tax – where much was made of the LibDems’ U-turn and there was an entertaining heckle!

Camden’s complaints procedure – would Sainsbury’s do a better job of managing the process?

Cycling & parking – is a wholesale review of parking restrictions needed?

Delivery lorries – everyone’s in agreement that Tesco lorries are a problem, what are the solutions?

Support for the Neighbourhood Development Plan – almost – almost – universal!

Getting the vote out – here’s where UKIP talk about removing the vote from some people

156 West End Lane – school? Community venue? What do the parties think?

Affordable housing – what does it mean?

And finally, how the candidates would fight our corner in the Town Hall (which led to one or two very odd replies).

If you want to watch everything in one go to get more of the atmosphere and hear what gets applauded and what doesn’t, then settle back with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

And a closing word:

Magnus Nielsen, UKIP

Hustings hoo-ha takes away from real issues

Monday night’s hustings for West Hampstead & Fortune Green wards in the local elections turned out to be popular. Some 150 people turned up to Emmanuel School hall to hear what 21 of the 26 candidates across the two wards had to say.

One of those candidates – UKIP’s Magnus Nielsen – took all the headlines the following morning after a peculiar answer to the question of low voter turnout where he mused that perhaps all the efforts made in the 19th century to extend the voter base might have been misguided.

The audience reaction – more laughs than gasps – tells you how little it resonated with voters. Yet, with one headline grabbing soundbite, the rest of the candidates’ efforts to discuss the issues that actually matter to local residents have been subsumed.

It was fairly clear that Nielsen was playing to the gallery with this and other bon mots throughout the evening. What West Hampstead voters – and quite possibly UKIP itself – might have found more disappointing was that Nielsen clearly hadn’t prepared a meaningful three minute pitch to voters unlike all the other candidates.

A lengthy intro about why someone with a Danish name was standing for UKIP means that half of his three minutes was about the war, and the other half consisted of a few digs at the EU.

There was nothing about West Hampstead, or even Camden and it rather felt as if it had been dreamt up at the last minute. Such a lack of respect for the audience and the electorate suggests that, despite the occasional bout of political hubris (“when I’m elected councillor”), the likelihood of Nielsen sitting in the council chamber for the next four years is even slimmer than it might have been at the start of the evening.

audience

Grill the candidates: Local election hustings May 12th

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries

Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries

If you want to ask your local election candidates about the issues that concern YOU rather than those that preoccupy the media (West Hampstead Life included), then come to our hustings on Monday May 12th at Emmanuel School hall (new building on Mill Lane).

What’s a hustings?
It’s an opportunity to hear from election candidates and to ask them questions. They’re common enough in general elections, but relatively rare in local elections. Why am I bothering? I think that a lot of people don’t vote in local elections because they don’t know much about the issues or who they’re voting for. What better way to find out that to meet the candidates in the flesh to see how they cope over hot coals!

Who’s going to be there?
This hustings will cover two wards – West Hampstead and Fortune Green. Apologies for those of you who live in the other local wards, but these two wards share more similarities and it would be a logistical nightmare to do more than two wards given the number of candidates.

All 26 candidates from the two wards have been invited – that’s six each from the Lib Dems, Labour, the Conservatives and the Greens, and the UKIP and TUSC candidates who are standing in West Hampstead. As I write, it looks like all the candidates from the big three parties will be there alongside some of the Greens, UKIP and the TUSC. That’s a lot of people, but we’re going to ensure it’s manageable.

Weren’t you going to do this in a pub?
Yes, I was. For all sorts of reasons I’ve decided to move it to the school hall in the new Emmanuel School building on Mill Lane. The main reason was sound quality – with no PA system for us at the pub, I was conscious that it might become hard for everyone to hear. Sorry for those of you looking to have a pint with your politics, but we will be able to serve refreshments – and some of those might even contain alcohol!

What’s the format?
One person from each party will get three minutes (strictly timed) to give a pitch. Then I’m going to kick things off with a few questions for everyone. Each party is encouraged to let only one person answer the question. After this, I’ll open it up to questions from you the audience, ideally topic by topic to avoid repetition. Naturally we expect everyone to be civil and polite and adult – this isn’t the House of Commons after all – and I will get very grumpy if those questions become statements or are patsy questions from other party members. You won’t like me when I’m grumpy.

Dimbleby

Depending on the lateness of the hour, there may be a bit of time at the end to mingle with the candidates in case your pet topic hasn’t come up, and then I suggest that everyone migrates to the pub for a much more informal chat.

Give me the logistics!
We have the school hall for two hours – from 7.30-9.30pm. I expect us to start promptly at 7.45 and we do need to stop at 9.30. The school is on Mill Lane, on the left (south) side if you’re coming from West End Lane.

I’m not that fussed about politics, why should I come?
I’m surprised you’ve read this far frankly. Come because it will give you an insight into who the people are who want to make decisions at the local level, and into the sort of decisions they make. Sure, it’s not about whether to invade Iraq or scrap tuition fees, but it is about the area you actually live in – the communities, the schools, the rubbish on the streets, the planning decisions, the roads and so on. It’s the stuff that affects you day to day. Wouldn’t you want to know who’s making those decisions; wouldn’t you want to have some say in who those people are?

What’s your agenda? Who’s paying for all this?
Valid questions. I have no political agenda other than to encourage people to engage with politics. That’s why all the parties have been invited and encouraged to attend, and all will be given a fair chance to speak. The parties themselves are (hopefully!) making a small contribution to the event costs (hall and equipment hire, refreshments), which is quite normal for a hustings. In addition, West Hampstead estate agent Paramount Properties is generously covering the rest of the costs as part of a commitment to community engagement. Paramount has neither asked for nor will receive any influence or involvement whatsoever in setting the agenda for the evening or in any of the questions I shall be asking.

I can’t make it on the night – how can I find out what happened?
We may be able to livestream the event – that’s still to be worked out. Failing that we’ll try and record it. I will try and post some tweets during the evening but, as the chair of the event, that might be a bit tricky. We will, however, write it up afterwards.

magnacarta

The Magna Carta – it may have been signed under duress, but it’s still the basis of our democracy today