Hustings, Hustings, Hustings

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April 29, 2015 by Protect Our NHS

Actually that should be five mentions of the word hustings as that’s the number of public meetings that Protect our NHS has run over the last few weeks; from the marginal seat of Kingswood in the North of our area, through Bristol North West, Bristol West, North Somerset and Weston-Super-Mare in the south.

And they were a huge success.

So from North to South here are some of the reports…

A personal report from a Protect our NHS campaigner who attended.

Adam Boyden: Liberal Democrats.
Fairly innocuous- not the most magnetic but made generally positive statements about less cuts and removing certain parts of the health and social care bill. However his knowledge of his own party’s policy was a little vague and hard to stomach the complete lack acknowledgment that his party has been in coalition for the past 5 years!

Jo McCarron: Labour.
Made some good points and promises – my enthusiasm was tempered by the knowledge that New Labour spread PFI and contributed to the current system! However her extensive campaigning and charitable work prior to becoming a candidate gave credence to her claims.

Duncan Odgers: UKIP.
Not the strongest speaker but tried to get his points across and avoided mentioning the extreme sides of his party. However his insistence that everything could be paid for by leaving the EU and stopping those unworthy immigrants kinda avoids the fact that leaving Europe would also cause financial pressures and immigrants contribute far more to this country than they take.

Chris Skidmore: Conservatives (current MP).
Hmm, how to leave my personal reaction aside?! Well – he did occasionally make statements that he knew wouldn’t go down well with the crowd for which I give him some respect. He presented himself fine – although occasionally he came off as a bit dismissive. The general theme seemed to be – I am trying to do all the things you want but some of the things are beyond my control.. oh and you’re all making up this stuff about privatisation. So not v convincing but hey.

Cezara Nanu: Green.
Arrived first and stayed last being pleasant throughout. Lots of answers anecdotal but as she works within the NHS and they only had 1min for answers this isn’t too bad. Also willing to give other candidates respect for good points. Overall a little vague at times but the sort of person you’d want to be friends with – also an immigrant!

Richard Worth: TUSC.
Made some strong points and appeared well prepared and passionate. His presence kept the other candidates on their toes. If I thought he’d get in he’d probably get my vote. Only downside was he lumped Labour and Conservatives into completely the same statements policy wise – when there are some important distinctions. Namely repealing the Health and Social Care bill.

Liam Bryan: Vapers in Power.
A one policy candidate who wants to stop restriction on e-cigarette manufacturing by a new EU (main party supported) piece of legislation. A surprisingly open and concise voice – he acknowledged that he wouldn’t be getting in and had no policy on the NHS but commented every now and then with good humour.

Bristol West
Claire Hiscott (Con); Darren Hall (Green); Dawn Parry (Independents for Bristol); Thangam Debbonaire (Lab); Stewart Weston (Left Unity); Paul Turner (Ukip);
Empty Chair: Stephen Williams (Lib Dem and MP until May 2015)

ProNHS members gathered with a buzz of anticipation for this, our first of the Protect our NHS Bristol Hustings. We had no idea how effective our publicity had been – until the room filled to the rafters (literally! with seating taken in the gallery), to its maximum capacity of 194. The meeting was ably chaired by our own Shaun Murphy.

The audience engaged immediately and as questions were taken from the floor, it became clear that feelings were high. No single audience member questioned the absence of Stephen Williams, the incumbent MP who had been too busy ‘closing down Parliament’ (what? all on his own?) to attend. His office had provided copies of a seemingly unfinished statement , which were made available to the audience together with a direct response in an open letter from PoNHS member Mike Campbell (see our blog).

Debate was lively; questions included the abolition of Trident (and the contribution this would make to the NHS), immigration (and its impact on the health service), mental health, nationalising pharmaceuticals, PFIs. It became clear that the public’s passion for a public NHS was the over-arching message.

Claire Hiscott seemed pleasant enough – explaining that she was always willing to stand up against her party’s policies when she felt strongly that they were not right; but predictably, this did not include the 2012 Health & Social Care Bill or their approach to the marketisation of the health service. Darren Hall was well-armed with facts and figures which he used to good effect, spoke coherently and was well-supported. Dawn Parry was nice but unconvincing. Stewart Weston spoke a lot of sense and Paul Turner forgot which party he was representing.

Thangam Debonnaire’s delivery peaked and troughed but she passionately supported Andy Burnham’s vision for the NHS – and left us feeling there really is no other choice in candidate for Bristol West if we want to retain the integrity and future of the service.

North Somerset

North Somerset Candidates:
Dr Liam Fox (Cons and MP to 2015), David Derbyshire (Green), Dr Greg Chambers (Lab), Marcus Kravis (LibDem), Alan Kealey (UKIP)

In North Somerset the arrival of 113 people forced us to find more chairs to seat them in Nailsea’s Scotch Horn Leisure Centre auditorium. The debate was relatively subdued with one or two of the candidates not being sufficiently prepared to face questioning on issues of primary health care. It was good to see several GPs in the audience, two of whom asked the panel searching questions on the funding of primary care and the role of the GP. The overall impression was that pronouncements by party leaders in the past three weeks on seemingly unlimited funding for the NHS over the next five years gave the five candidates get-out-of-jail-free cards when it came to promises for the future.


Weston Candidates:
John Penrose (Cons and MP to 2015), Dr Richard Lawson (Green), Tim Taylor (Lab), John Munro (LibDem) Ernie Warrender (UKIP)

Perhaps surprisingly, Weston had the largest turnout of all the hustings with 230 people packed into the Blakehay Theatre (more being turned away by the theatre’s management) to hear an excellent and sparky debate between the five candidates with strong audience participation. In both North Somerset and Weston we adopted the process of giving each member of the audience a red and a green card which they could wave if they approved or disapproved. This served to reduce the noise level and made for a colourful spectacle. From personal observation it was the LibDem who got the most red cards with Labour, Tory and Green sharing the most greens. Nigel Farage could have criticised the demographic make-up of the audience, I’m sure, but it was fascinating to see the broad consensus of people desperately wanting reassurance that the NHS would not just remain free at the point of need, but publicly owned. The Green candidate’s comment that the railways should also be re-nationalised was greeted with a general cheer of approval.

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“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.” Noam Chomsky

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