Unofficial London Hustings. How did (most) of the candidates fare?
Eight of the potential candidates turned up at this hustings on Tuesday 18th July 2017. More interesting was who was in the audience. From where I sat it seemed this was a meeting, predominantly, of the old guard of London’s UKIP. Loud they were and organised. A clique presented what few questions came from the audience. Anyone else who dared was loudly heckled.
A Tedious Lengthy Introduction
The longest speeches came from Freddy Vaccha. He, surely, loves his own voice! He spent an inordinate time declaring the rules of the “debate”. When Anne-Marie Waters turned up twenty minutes late he found the need to repeat the whole process. Despite declaring those rules, two from the panel decided to issue personal attacks on Anne-Marie Waters. Yes, indeed, Freddy jumped in but they made sure they were heard and she was not given the opportunity to respond.
Better Late Than Never?
The Northern Line was in chaos but I arrived using it. I was in good time so this suggested to me that Anne-Marie is not good at time management. However she did somewhat better than Jane Collins, who failed to turn up or Peter Whittle who chose to travel to another meeting. A comment was made, by a member of his own branch, to the effect that he never turns up to branch meetings since being elected to the London Assembly. I am a member of the same branch. I could not possibly comment.
David Coburn made some pretty disparaging and offensive remarks about English UKIP members as well as attempting a personal attack on Anne-Marie Waters. Bill Etheridge threw a boulder or two at her from his somewhat tarnished glass house. Neither of these people brought any credit on themselves at this meeting. Neither of them seemed, to me, to be capable of a civilised democratic debate. Bill Etheridge delivered far-right Tory rant. David Coburn seemed to be half way to becoming a Scottish Nationalist.
Insomnia CureTwo of the candidates were so dreary they really ought to consider whether they are going to continue. I sat next to David Allen at a conference once so I had to sit through pretty well everything he said, at this event, once before. Both he and Aidan Pownesland would be an excellent cure for insomnia.
David Kurten discharged himself quite well but although his style was good he seemed to lack the depth necessary to lead a discussion on reform and policy.
Anne-Marie Waters delivered a credible presentation and admitted to areas of her own weakness. She has been criticised on forums for this but I thought it was honest. At this meeting, going by the level of applause, she seemed to have the support of around 70% of those present. None of the other candidates achieved such a reception.
It was clear Anne-Marie was not a one issue candidate, as some would have us believe, but it would have been nice if we could have questioned her and raised the issue of how the press and media would choose to present her. Perception tends to be far more important than truth.
An Orchestrated Event
We were not allowed to question her, or any of the candidates, on their particular areas of weakness and how they would make up for those. This was the real deficiency in the organisation of this meeting. Despite having served advance warning to all London members Freddy had not announced the need to submit questions in advance and the approach meant there was no opportunity for spontaneity. The occasional question from the audience appeared to come from a small clique. Freddy knew the names of each questioner and so they were hardly likely to have been selected at random.
What this meant was that there was no real opportunity to grill the candidates on their proposals for reform and the development of policy.
Who Performed Best?
The three candidates that performed best, it seemed to me, were Anne-Marie Waters, Ben Walker and John Rees-Evans. For the reasons I have stated above I would have concerns if Anne-Marie were elected.
I found Ben to have a considered approach. I feel John depends heavily on generalisations and assumptions. Some of those assumptions have the capacity to open the way to cause real harm to the party’s prospects and he needs to address this. The limits of his “Direct Democracy” need to be explained in detail. Proposals for using “off the shelf” software packages used for dating sites are simply ludicrous.
Ben is less experienced and that showed but the thrust of his argument is in sympathy with John’s yet more down to earth. None of those on the panel delivered what might be called a polished performance. We have been spoiled by Nigel Farage who excelled in his delivery.The small room was over full and this added to a general feeling of being steam rollered by the chairman. He selected the questions to be asked and hence the nature of the whole meeting. This is not the best way to organise a “hustings”. The selection of questions should be by someone other than the chairman of the gathering but preferably most should be spontaneous questions from the audience.
It was inappropriate for questions to be put in the name of branches. If branches want answers then they can invite the candidates to attend their meetings or even simply write and ask for responses. As it is, this meeting was orchestrated to the chairman’s personal preference. Some things, in UKIP, never seem to change!
My hope for UKIP was that it would become a party where fair expression is actively promoted and welcomed. The intolerance of some, at these hustings, makes me despair. I came away from this meeting with my heart in my boots.
Whoever is chosen, as leader, they will be an unfinished product. It will take quite a time to establish him/herself and frankly to learn the ropes. This means the best leader we can choose will be the one who is most prepared to listen and engage with the grassroots members. That might not be the one you think.
A video recording was made of the event but, at the time of writing, this has failed to materialise. I suspect a great deal of editing is proving necessary.
© PJW Holland MMXVII