Hustings (plural)Last night three of us went to Herne Hill to the hustings there organised by the local forum. We were surprised to find the church hall full with about 70-80 people. The main questions were about transport (logically since that's about all the Mayor and Assembly control). Here the main concern seemed to be cyclists with the candidates (except of course Danny and the UKIP man who wasn't there) lining up to promise to make cycling safer and bash motorists. Addressing an audience of motorists they would of course (except the Greens) probably take a different approach (Mayor Boris calls 4x4s "large family cars" and reduced the congestion charge on them besides freeing Kensington and Chelsea, where these "Chelsea tractors", proliferate, from the congestion zone altogether). Given the many problems facing people in London you'd have thought that there were more urgent concerns (unemployment, housing, benefit cuts), but apparently not, at least not in Herne Hill which has Tory councillors including the Tory GLA candidate.
The riots did come up, with all the candidates, including the Tory, criticising the police for stopping-and-searching black youth too much -- a different approach, we seem to remember, from what was said at the time. Danny was able to point out that the riots were obviously related to poverty and only took place in poverty-stricken parts of London. This was parish pump stuff and Danny did his best to introduce a broader perspective: capitalism and its profit priority, particularly acute in a crisis as at present, which prevents basic amenities being adequate and in fact means they're being cut back. Maybe the candidates and audience subconsciously recognised this (the LibDEm candidate did admit that money doesn't grow on trees) and that was why they only wanted to discuss cycle lanes and lollipop ladies.
There is another hustings this evening, in St Mary's Church in Putney, the church where the Putney Debates of 1647 took place between Cromwell and the Levellers. In fact the BBC are making a history film about them and will be there to ask the candidates what they think of the relevance of these debates to today. This should allow our candidate -- this time Bill, in Merton & Wandsworth -- to talk about something other than cycle lanes.
Last night we discovered (the Tory candidate told us) that there's an Election Question Time at 2pm in Brixton organised by the Lambeth Forum for Older People in association with Lambeth Pensioners Action Group to which only 4 of the 6 candidates have been invited. Danny can't make it but if he could he would gatecrash it. Pity really because we got a good reception from the LPAG at the general election in 2010 and the question of cycle lanes won't come up (more likely to be questions about cyclists cycling on the pavement and knocking pensioners down as they sail through red lights ...) This question of only inviting some of the candidates to hustings needs to be addressed. A case could be made for saying that the expenses of organising such hustings should be included in the election expenses of the candidates invited. Maybe we should make a test case of one. Anyway, we are going to leaflet it.