The revival of election hustings
This has been the week of many hustings! Six in total for me, personally, and that’s not accounting for the other hustings that my colleagues on the Lothian list also addressed this week. And it is not just that there’s been a lot of hustings – the turnout has been big as well: with audiences of more than 100 common.
It’s curious, in a way, that this should be so. Ten years ago hustings seemed to be dying out, in the face of stage-managed performances for the media. Add to that the rise of facebook, twitter, youtube and blogging and it is a surprise that they have survived at all.
Here’s my theory as to why. This year, to a greater extent than ever before, there’s been a number of “leader’s debates”. Despite a significant majority of the population saying, in a Yougov poll, that they wanted to see the Greens in those debates, the media machine, in its thirst to be kingmakers, has excluded the Greens. So events organised by STV, BBC and the Scotsman have ignored the Greens. The exception to be congratulated is the Federation of Small Businesses, however, which, in its leaders’ debates, recognised that we have a five-party landscape in Scotland.
But in general these leaders’ debates have been utterly woeful – focusing on performance, not policy and vacuous exchanges not vision. As one twitter follower put it, “on this showing I would not vote for any of these 4”.
So maybe the old-fashioned hustings, in the church hall or community centre, is an antidote to all that. Whatever the reason, it’s a breath of fresh air.
And it has also been the week of the first screening of the Greens’ party election broadcast, featuring a few of our best but often unsung campaigners here in Edinburgh. The response has been really positive so far to our upbeat, affirmative message on how government and communities can work together for the greater good.
And it has won new support. I had a message last night from one of our members who has worked in Sighthill in Edinburgh for many years. I’ll spare you the clichés about Sighthill being one the most disadvantaged parts of the city. It has its share of problems, certainly, but generalisations like this fail to capture the strengths and assets of a community as well. Many of the people of Sighthill don’t conform to the easy stereotype of Green voters; yet our broadcast seems to have won over new converts there too.
But enough looking back – a busy weekend in store!