Thursday, 20 May 2010

Three 'Question Times' - in one week!

This first appeared in the Bath Chronicle on Thursday, April 29.

Iam pretty certain that by tea-time on Saturday (May 1) Bath's election candidates will be pretty sick of seeing each other - and probably fed up of seeing me too.

The reason for this is that over the past few weeks those fighting for the Bath seat have been bumping into each other at various events at a number of different Question Time-style hustings events. These will continue this weekend with the candidates due to line up against each other at The Forum on Friday night and then at the Bath Royal and Literary Scientific Institution (BRLSI) on Saturday afternoon - both of which will be chaired by me.

Friday night's event has been organised by the Churches Together in Bath organisation and was, I understand, a huge success when a similar event was held at the last election. And then tomorrow afternoon's battle of words will see the attention switch to Queen Square where the BRLSI and the Bath and District Unlock Democracy group will be the hosts.

Both events promise to be very different but hopefully both will be very informative as well.

As for myself, I had a taste of the joys of chairing a hustings event on Monday night when I was with a different set of candidates - those battling it out for the intriguing North East Somerset seat at Midsomer Norton Town Hall.

I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed that first of my trio of debates this week and I was hugely impressed by the mature, intelligent and entertaining way the candidates engaged a packed hall. They treated all our questioners (as they treated each other) with real respect and I like to think that in our own small way we did a little bit of good for the local democracy on that night.

I can't guarantee that anybody changed their votes but I am pretty certain most people came away understanding the candidates and what they and their party stood for much better as a result of our time together. Job done.

What of course makes these sort of Question Time shindigs all the more intriguing at the moment is that no one has a clue about who is going to win the big vote a week today (May 6) so every single vote is precious and needs to be fought for with passion.

We have seen the impact those TV debates have already had on the big global picture but I would like all the candidates for the next couple of hustings to consider that if they make their mark during these local battles, they could really make a difference if the decision goes down to a handful of votes as many people are predicting.

So, I do hope to see a number of you on Friday night and Saturday afternoon and I hope you will have the chance to ask the questions you want to be heard. It's a great chance to make your mind up with all the candidates present about who deserves your precious vote.

Let the battle(s) commence.

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