I went to a meeting yesterday evening. Now that announcement in itself should not evince any surprise, people attend meetings all the time. But this meeting was super-special, because it was an Election Hustings meeting, where we were supposed to hear and judge the people who were asking for our votes! Once every five years, the political elite of this country of ours are forced to ask for our votes. They truly do hate it, but it is the law! Many laws have been altered, many have been dismissed, and even more have been created, but the one immutable fact is that THEY have to ask US!
As many may know, I live in Durham City, which, despite it’s title is a small-to-compact market town in the North East of England. Because of small but significant chance happenings earlier in our history, of the emergence of industrial geniuses such as Armstrong and Stephenson, the North-East has been a powerhouse in our industrial heritage. Because of that reliance on heavy industry, the political beliefs of a majority of the people living in this area have leant, rightly or wrongly, towards a socialist ethos. As my fellow writer Andrew McCann has written in an earlier post “It’s t’ Party of the working man”, and it is indeed a difficult task to try and alter the mindset of someone who clings to a particular belief, that they have been wrong all their lives, and another party has a better slant upon events.
So as I stated, I went to the ‘Hustings’, comfortable that while many view our electoral process as a seal of the way things are done, of a silent river of opinion flowing towards a just conclusion, I at least know that should a maverick show up, this would be the place to spot such an event.
There were four chairs set out for four candidates, one each for the three main parties represented, and the fourth occupied by a candidate from UKIP. The meeting progressed in a typically British way, with all four candidates placing their positions and allowing the audience of Durham city voters to either make their minds up, or else be confirmed in their beliefs or prejudices. The Lib-Dem candidate came across as possibly a well-meaning person, but no firm ideas of leadership or plan. The Conservative man gave it a good go, and I thought he was quite impressive, but his cause foundered upon the rocks of recent history, when the events after the miners strike were discussed, as he was accused of decimating the coal industry single-handedly. As he hadn’t even been born when Scargill led the National Union of Mineworkers into oblivion, I thought that perhaps unfair, but the shadow of Margaret Thatcher casts a long thrall over the closed minds of a Labour-minded population, and he doesn’t have a great chance of overturning the incumbent. She, the Labour party candidate, unfortunately comes over as competent. I say unfortunately because it would take a fair movement within the mass consciousness of the voters to move away from Labour, and from supporting her candidacy! The last chair was occupied by the UKIP candidate, and whilst I have nothing personally against the man, never having clapped eyes upon him before yesterday evening, the only impression I received was one where he was wondering what on earth he was doing in that place! Utterly clueless!
However, there should have been six chairs set out at that meeting in Durham, one chair for the Independent candidateI wrote of earlier, and another seat for the unmentionable candidacy; the BNP. No sign of any accommodation for those people who would have liked to see the man who dared to place his name in contention while supporting a ‘Right-Wing’ viewpoint. There was no chair, no microphone, no sign that there was another viewpoint in contention, and he was not represented in thought or intention!
I approached the chairman of the meeting after it was closed, and asked him if all the candidates for the City of Durham had been invited to attend. The Dean of Durham Cathedral, for that was his title, smiled thinly and stated that only the four main party candidates had been invited to attend the Durham Church Together ‘Hustings’ meeting. When I asked why the BNP candidate had not received an invitation, and had therefore been excluded from the proceedings, I was rewarded with an even thinner smile, and the answer, “It wasn’t considered appropriate.”.
Now I always thought that Democracy meant that everyone should have a chance to examine the policies and plans of all who were thinking of standing for election, and that no-one should block any candidacy because of any particular viewpoint or proposal, unpleasant though that proposal may be. But there we were, restricted from at least hearing what the man from the BNP had to say, and to question his beliefs and Party policies by the deliberate actions of a senior cleric and his small team of ‘believers’. Don’t know about you, but I feel slightly short-changed by this arrogant Anglican upstart!
X-posted from A Tangled Web