West Hampstead is a very civic-minded area and last night The Sherriff Centre in St James’s Church held a hustings on whether Britain should stay in the European Union. The audience of about 60-80 people was generally respectful and let everyone speak. A republican debate on Fox news it was not. Each side also had a stall with more information. The panel was moderated by Father Andrew Cain.
For the Remain side: Andrew Marshall (Conservative councillor for Swiss Cottage and former Deputy Leader of Camden Council), and Hannah Phillips, who is leading the Holborn & St Pancras remain campaign (though has no political affiliation)
For the Leave side: Calvin Robinson (teacher and Conservative candidate in the recent Kilburn (Brent) by-election) and John Mills (a prominent voice in the Labour party supporting Brexit).
The referendum campaign on both sides has, with a few exceptions, been pale, male and old(er). It was welcoming therefore to hear Calvin and Hannah balancing out the experience of John and Andrew. There was a proper debate and although there was a bit of passion from the audience and some accusations of both sides on lying, it was all in moderation. We in West Hampstead are a bit respectful.
In the end, did the debate really change anything? Father Andrew conducted a poll of the audience and it transpired that nobody who was previously decided changed their minds, but four uncommitted voters came to a decision.
Whichever direction you think Britain should take, do vote on June 23rd. It’s a momentous decision that will affect everyone, so get out there and make sure your voice is heard. If you’re finding it hard to filter the facts from the fiction, try FullFacts for some stats behind the spin.