Still not me actually participating as a candidate in the hustings process, but I had the pleasure of watching Blaise Baquiche twice more on Thursday evening and Friday morning. This follows on from my first hustings, and this article covers the second Hustings event hosted at Brunel University.
If you couldn’t make it and want to view the whole thing, the livestream of the event was made available here.
The first hustings this week was a fairly chaotic event, with 11 of the 17 candidates present. Nevertheless, the moderator did a great job of ensuring that all candidates got to speak, though I am sure that the audience wished that some of them would pipe down!
Notably, neither Labour (Danny Beales) nor Conservatives (Steve Tuckwell) turned up. Personally I see this as contempt for the democratic process, as this was otherwise the most complete hustings event for Uxbridge & South Ruislip, and it felt like a return to Boris Johnson hiding in fridges or himself not bothering to attend hustings events.
Notwithstanding these absences, the stage was pretty crowded. The following candidates were present (from left to right, from the audience perspective):
- Blaise Baquiche, Liberal Democrats
- Piers Corbyn, Let London Live
- Lawrence Fox, Reclaim UK
- Steve Gardner, SDP
- Ed Gemmel, Climate
- Sarah Green, Green
- Kingsley Anti-ULEZ, Independent
- Richard Hewison, Rejoin EU
- Rebecca Jane, UKIP
- Leo Phaure, No ULEZ Leo
- 77 Joseph, Independent
Several of these candidates can, I think fairly, be lumped together for review. So that’s what I will do.
I’m going to get this out of the way early. I liked Joseph, thought he brought a sense of honestly and genuine desire to help. Unfortunately for him, he is a single-issue candidate and freely admitted that he didn’t really have any stances on major issues. Additionally, Joseph’s single issue is highly divisive, a large scale monument to the monarchy. As a committed abolitionist, this definitely didn’t win me over.
Joseph, if you read this, please know that you have my respect for what you chose to do, but I think we both know that being an MP isn’t the right place for you.
As you can see from the candidate list, two candidates explicitly stated that they were standing primarily to stop ULEZ. As I pointed out in the preamble to my question towards the end of the hustings, ULEZ is a devolved Greater London Authority power, and an MP has no say over whether the ULEZ applies to their constituency. As such, this completely undermines the entire purpose of these candidates running.
Incidentally, one of the candidates tacitly admitted to vandalising existing cameras and said that if unable to stop ULEZ through legal means, he would take matters into his own hands. This is absolutely not how society functions. We all have laws that we don’t feel are fair, but that does not give us carte blanche to go out and destroy public property. As an MP, we need someone who understands that the rule of law is all that keeps our country civilised, and fully accepts that they will be limited on the things they can directly change because of how democracy works.
In short, these candidates seemed nice enough, but didn’t strike me as MP material.
Given both Piers Corbyn and Lawrence Fox were on stage, I expected more of a trainwreck. Importantly, both of these candidates represent what happens when we let personal prejudices blind us to actual expertise. For Corbyn, he denies anthropogenic (man-caused) climate change and seems to be opposed to vaccines, for Fox, he is rabidly transphobic. As if that wasn’t enough, Fox was also the only candidate who didn’t say that billionaires should be taxed, instead shifting the topic to companies.
As before, these candidates turned up with some of their acolytes, so they got applause every time they said something frankly ludicrous, but no-one that went along looking for a serious candidate would have been attracted to either, no matter how charming and charismatic they were.
Rebecca Jane of UKIP said something like “I’m not going to win, so I’m here to send a message”. As such, I don’t really see much point in reviewing the other things she said, as it’s very clear that not even she thinks she has an actual chance.
We had representatives from two climate-focused parties, the Greens and Climate. You might wonder what the difference here is, and I think that’s most easily described with the standard “left/right” economic scale. Greens are left wing, Climate are self-described as centre-right.
I have said before that I like listening to Sarah Green, as I think she brings a very well researched and supported statement whenever she talks about issues. We don’t see eye to eye on all issues (e.g. ULEZ), but I hope that she would agree that we both want to achieve positive climate outcomes, we just have a slightly different approach on how to implement the necessary strategies.
Ed Gemmel spoke well on a number of issues, and held his own well against heckling from climate deniers.
The last two candidates are Steve Gardner (SDP) and Blaise Baquiche (Liberal Democrats). Of all the candidates, these were the hardest for me to tell apart, and it is very clear how similar the two parties are (unsurprising given the origins!). In fact, the only major issue that I could look at which would be a point of disagreement is Brexit – the SDP is prominently pro-Brexit, while the Liberal Democrats are anti.
Incidentally, borrowing an event from the next morning’s hustings, Steve indicated that his first policy as an MP would be to ask the people what they want and then implement that. This to me is a complete abnegation of the responsibility of an MP to sometimes do things for people’s well-being, not necessarily what they say they want. A classic example here would be taxation. If you asked a random crowd if they wanted to pay taxes or not, I suspect they would mostly say “no”, and if the general rule given above holds, that MP would be duty-bound to eliminate taxation. This would likely cause a complete collapse of all services that we take for granted, including the NHS, education, emergency services, etc.
In short, sometimes an MP needs to say “no”.
This is why we have representative democracy rather than pure democracy. We elect representatives that we trust to act in our best interest, and we let them get on with making decisions, some of which will not be great individually.
Incidentally, this is why I am so focused on electoral reform – we need a system that actually represents us, otherwise our MPs do not necessarily have our interests in mind at all.