Thame Hustings

I’ve never been to a hustings event before. It’s when local candidates turn up to answer questions in the run-up to an election. We had five candidates:

  • John Howell – Conservative and local MP since 2008.
  • Oliver Kavanagh – Labour, currently works as a lawyer.
  • Laura Coyle – Liberal Democrats, currently works as a housing solicitor.
  • Robin Bennett – Green Party, guitarist for St Etienne (one of the bands that got me through university) and The Dreaming Spires. Also mentioned during the course of the evening that he’s a school governor and wife works in NHS.
  • Patrick Gray – Radical Party, who didn’t say much about what he does now, but you can read it here. This is the first election where they are fielding a candidate.
  • The UKIP candidate was unable to make it.

The event was billed as a Question Time style event, with questions coming from the audience and candidates being given the opportunity to respond.

I took as many notes as I could but was typing on my phone and couldn’t keep up with everything, but here are some highlights:

Question on funding for schools 

There seemed to be some doubt as to whether the Conservatives pledge to increase funding would actually work out, especially when population increases were taken into consideration. Lib Dems and Labour were pledging a funding increase. Green Party candidate gave a good response based on first hand experience as a school governor.

Radical Party gave some interesting statistics but also pointed out that we shouldn’t be following the US systems on education, but looking to learn from Scandinavian and German systems.

Question around the issue that, for the first time in years, the UK child mortality rate has increased

Conservatives said that we are still sorting out the Labour mess and that getting us out of the deficit was the priority. Greens, Labour and Liberal candidates were all able to say from direct experience, that the current system isn’t working, Liberals mentioning that as a housing lawyer she sees the first hand effects on families as a result of these cost cutting measures.

Radical Party candidate says that we rank 22 out of 24 on equality and it’s the people that don’t have a voice that suffer most. Also pointed out that our economic crisis was not caused by our spending but by our money being gambled by traders in London and New York – yet the ones paying are those at the bottom of the tree.

Question: How can Teresa May be trusted with Policing when she’s overseen a cut of 20,000 police officers. 

Conservatives are concentrating on moving Police from the kind of roles that deal with crimes like burglary, where incidents are decreasing, to surveillance and intelligence roles.

Lib Dems say that community Police are needed to build trust within communities and gain the intelligence.

Labour wanted to be judged on their values of compassion, rather than on the misquoting of figures by Diane Abbott

Greens questioned why we’d trade with Saudi Arabia where there are links to terrorists.

Radical Party said that the public wouldn’t cut the number of Police.

Question on the future of EU migrants, from one who has lived here for 36 years working in the NHS

Conservatives say that they are pushing for a reciprocal agreement for British living overseas, but this won’t happen until we start negotiations over Brexit deal.

All other parties basically said that they should guarantee the rights of those already living here and not use them as a bargaining chip in the upcoming negotiations. The Radical Party went as far as to point out that young people are a huge asset to this party, and the Green candidate noted that for many young people they have grown up as EU citizens, it’s part of their identity.

Liberals pointed out that 10% of our doctors come fro the EU.

There was a question on affordable housing

Current ‘affordable housing’ is not affordable.

There was broad recognition that more joined up thinking was needed.

How will you help refugees

Conservatives are prioritising those in Syria.

Liberals pledge 50000 over the next five years and say that we should be proud to be helping. They also want a 28 day limit on people being put in detention centres.

Labour cannot shy away from our commitment to refugees

Greens, that decency and morality are key values and we should live up to these.

Radicals, we owe a lot to previous generations of refugees and we do owe something to our government for what they do overseas. We also need to collaborate more with international groups.


Then there were closing statements:

Labour guy said that we have an important national choice. Though, he was clearly campaigning to come second.

Radicals said that all the problems stem from those that have the power, that government needs reform.

Greens pointed out that we are the world’s second biggest arms dealer and yet we can’t help refugees or support the vulnerable. Community is one of their central themes.

Conservatives are proud of what they have done for the economy and the NHS.

Liberals want to send a message that there was a vote on EU membership, not a vote on how we would leave. They are open and tolerant.


What do I think:

John Howell is a smart guy. The Conservatives clearly think that they still have to sort out the debt before they can start spending seriously on all the local programmes that we need. To be fair, I’m impressed by how calm he was given that the Conservatives were clearly not the popular party this evening.

Oliver Kavanagh gave a good performance for Labour. I was disappointed that he was so clearly fighting for second place in the local election as this is such a safe Tory seat. Even if that’s what you think, you don’t say it. He clearly cares about the local community, which is good to see.

Laura Coyle was the most passionate of the bunch. Not just in the prepared bits at the beginning and end, but also when talking about local services and the needs of the community.

Robin Bennett gave a fine performance for the Greens. They seem to have lost some of the truly mad policies of the last election campaign and have some realistic ideas for this one. I was really impressed at how well he spoke on issues of schooling and health.

Patrick Gray did well for the Radical Party, they’ve got some really good ideas and know why they are standing. It was useful to have his clear, well thought out views tonight.

Posted in Personal and tagged , , .


  1. Hi Philip – this is a great article – especially useful for those who weren’t able to attend.

    I am sharing it on a Facebook Group which asks the question ‘Is it worth voting in our Henley Constituency?’

    If you are not a member already, please do come and join in the conversation – and feel free to invite any other friends who may wish to add their voice – the more, the merrier 🙂

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