I’ve not been to a hustings before, and I thought I’d write up my impressions of it.
The candidates attending are:
- Desi Latimer for the Brexit Party
- David Drew for the Labour Party
- Siobhan Baillie for the Conservatives
- Molly Scott-Cato for the Greens
The first very significant thing is that in Stroud we have three female candidates and only one male! This is a sign of progress whatever you think of the party policies.
I didn’t take notes, but here are my recollections and feelings about the notable moments. I try to be very even-handed (as you will see if you read the whole piece), I care about people, animals and the environment not political parties’ ideologies.
For background: I was a life long Lib Dem voter until moving to Stroud in around 2006 and became a Green voter from then on. My parents are/were Tory voters.
For those wanting the TL:DR; I feel the Green candidate Molly Scott-Cato was far and away the most impressive candidate, and while Labour’s David Drew is a much-loved hard working local MP with a lot of compassion and local insight, Labour will not get a majority in the election and as a whole is weak on Climate Change and does not support Remain which will drastically damage our ability to deal with Climate Emergency. I therefore think we need to make Stroud a Green MP seat. Vote for the change you want and all that. For more detail, read on.
Each candidate got to introduce their or their party’s basic position on Climate Change, and then there were set questions posed to each candidate in turn. There was no free questioning from the audience or responses between candidates, surely due to time constraints and avoiding a descent into chaos and derision. Overall it was very respectful, though there were some guffaws and laughter in response to the Tory candidate’s claims — which were notably raised later by Molly of the Greens asking the audience to just listen in the spirit of co-operation and hearing everybody’s views.
There was a question about whether the candidates would support making Ecocide (damage to ecosystems) part of UK law. The Tory candidate’s position on Ecocide clearly didn’t include the notion of prosecuting business executives. The Green candidate said that she had been part of efforts in the EU to bring this legislation forward, but that easier routes to legislation with similar results exist (I can’t remember the details there) and this is promising. I can’t recall the Labour response.
The Brexit candidate Desi seemed genuinely concerned about issues and works in renewable energy, but seemed lacking any real Climate policy to convey to the audience, generally citing a desire to learn more about the issues but agreeing broadly with climate change goals.
She often asked to give her response after some of the other candidates had spoken, and often repeated much of what another had said — and partly because of this was overlooked on a couple of later questions where she was not given the chance to respond though this didn’t seem deliberate. It was a little awkward and you actually felt for her, despite representing a frankly abhorrent party.
The Labour candidate conveniently dismissed Brexit itself as a small side issue to Climate Change, rather conveniently given that Labour are not campaigning to remain in the EU. This was frankly insulting given that Molly for the Green Party countered that most of our existing environmental protections come from the EU and will vanish after Brexit. With Tories and Labour repeatedly failing to create meaningful UK regulation in the past, membership of the EU is a huge issue for the UK tackling Climate Emergency.
There was a question “What will you do to monitor the air pollution from the Javelin Park incinerator”. The Tory candidate did not have real objections to the incinerator other than not liking the design, which raised laughs of disbelief at such a superficial response. David Drew for Labour explained about the difficulties measuring the small particulates and (I think, it could have been Molly though) the insanity of feeding the incinerator material that would be otherwise recycled just to keep it firing.
There was a general question relating to what the parties would do to mitigate climate change if they are in government. The Tory candidate Siobhan emphasised the need for action by all individuals rather than the government introducing legislation and regulation.
I will say that I found this particularly insulting and would love to have interrupted to say how I have seen first hand that paying much more than most people for organic/local food, green energy and green products over the last 20 years has made no tangible difference and the number of people doing likewise has hardly increased to the point of making a difference.
It is insulting to put the duty for change onto the public when structural change is clearly needed in government and law to achieve climate change mitigation by 2050 let alone 2030. It is an incredibly tone-deaf notion that people need to just change a few habits here and there. Most people will never do this because it is more hassle and costs more money. Incentives have to exist.
On a question related to the town of Cam and transport links, the Labour candidate David talked about grand plans like renationalising rail and overhauling local buses. The room was very supportive of these kinds of policies, but without a good chance of a majority Labour government this will never happen, and no details were given at all of how one solves the privatised local bus problems where there are established contracts and no legal teeth to bring changes. For balance, I don’t recall clearly the Green candidate’s response but there was talk of cancelling all new roadbuilding and investing into the cheapest, easiest to implement local transport.
One thing that disappointed me greatly was that you could tell the most hardcore Labour supporters in the room because they weren’t clapping for statements made by Molly, though from what I can tell everybody else applauded, and the staunch Greens in the audience applauded Labour responses. It really feels like there is major resentment by hardcore Labour supporters that the Greens are fielding Molly in Stroud based on fear of splitting the vote and breaking the old two-party status quo. The Climate Emergency dwarfs any ideological differences people have.
At one point the Green party candidate Molly mentioned plans for a Carbon Chancellor to reside in No.11 alongside the Treasury Chancellor and other changes to Government. These are fantastic ideas but with the Green Party unlikely to see a role in Government any time soon, it seems rather incongruous. I suppose you have to have a full manifesto as if you were going to govern. Increasing Green MP presence and forming alliances with MPs in other parties is very effective and powerful, which is the biggest value from adding new Green MPs to Parliament.
The Brexit party and the Tories were pretty much exactly what you’d expect — lacking effective policies and conviction. I was not expecting to be more offended by a Tory candidate’s responses than the Brexit candidate’s, but life is full of surprises.
Labour and Greens faired the best, but for me the incumbent Labour candidate David Drew was at times blustering and frankly unconvincing that Labour can actually bring any meaningful change, no matter how much he would like to bring it himself.
The Green candidate Molly clearly had the best grasp of the wider issues and pointed out that fighting for Remain is critical to the UK’s ability to tackle climate change. A Tory Brexit that happens with Labour’s support will result in a poorly regulated UK and huge steps backward for the climate. Leaving the EU is a colossal mistake, something that Labour will not accept.
The last EU election showed clearly that many Labour and Tory voters support Remain and Green issues – Greens & Lib Dems had 49% of the vote, with Labour on only 6% and Tory on 7%. This means huge numbers of Labour and Tory voters vote Green when it comes to Remain because their own parties are pushing for Brexit. This makes Stroud an easy win for Greens (and hence all of us) if people drop their two-party politics and think about Climate Emergency first.
My personal perspective is that we need huge changes, and quickly. We need to fight to remain in the EU and we need experienced people like Molly Scott Cato to shake things up and bring more economic and climate expertise to Parliament. Labour have played the “don’t vote Green you’ll get Tory” card extensively not just in Stroud and Labour have a vested interest in old-fashioned two-party politics in the UK.
The Greens seem far more co-operative and forward looking, and have decades of experience of formulating policy around Social Justice and the Climate Emergency.