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Packed Hustings at the Balsam Centre

Friday 23 April 2010, 23:35
By John Baxter

Annunziata Rees-Mogg and David HeathEveryone knows that the real battle in this constituency is between David Heath, who as a Liberal Democrat has been our MP for thirteen years, and the Conservative candidate Annunziata Rees-Mogg. Certainly for the last three elections the contest between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats has resulted in extremely close contests and all the indicators are that this is the case this time also. This does not mean that the appearance on the scene of candidates supporting other parties or as independents is a waste of time for they are able both to do what they can to promote their views and policies and upset the applecart for the two main parties by drawing off vitally needed support. For example if some are drawn to vote either for Labour or for UKIP that could make a critical difference to the number of votes cast for the two main candidates.

Of course Hustings are inclined to attract the politically committed and there was much smiling, shaking hands and being polite to those one knew locally - be they on one's own or the other side. There was also some suspicious eyeing of outsiders. Were they perhaps genuine uncommitted local voters or enemy troops drafted in from across the county? Annunziata making a very important looking speechClearly there was quite a group of non-locals who turned up and sat in a bunch at the front ready to applaud their candidate. In fact the general level of applause indicated both major sides were out in force. More importantly everyone was given a good hearing and there was only one attempt to shout a speaker down. It was also good to see all ages well represented - showing that politics here is not simply the preserve of the middle aged and older.

Baptist Minister Andrew Ireland acted calmly as chairman with Anglican Rector Nigel Feaver keeping strict time with his stopwatch so no speaker could drone on and on. The reason for the reverends was that the whole occasion was organised by Wincanton Churches Together (WCT).

Barry Harding, for UKIP
Barry Harding for UKIP

There were five candidates. Each had equal time but since the Independent Niall Warry was a discontented former UKIP man, the basic UKIP message which seemed to be that all our problems, economic, political, social, and educational, would be solved if only we got out of Europe and that climate change is bad science and a big con got repeated twice.

How did Labour do? David Oakensen, a Chartered Accountant with working class roots, was relaxed, reasonable and quite unflappable. Being well aware that in this area he represented a minority and that Gordon Brown is not generally loved, he quietly pointed out that Labour has done some good things, especially in improving education and refurbishing schools. David Oakensen, the Labour candidateThis was greeted with sounds of derision from those who have either forgotten or do not know what a poor state they were left in after Labour replaced the previous lot.

So how did the two main candidates do? Obviously supporters of each would declare their man or woman the winner. What was certainly true was that Annunziata spoke clearly, calmly and confidently and David warmly and at times passionately. They only clashed head to head once when Annunziata sought to tell David what Liberal Democrat policy on immigration was.

After they had all responded to the rather long and complicated questions WCT had devised, there was finally a few minutes for the public to ask some questions. I thought there was too little time for this. One good question from WCT I think would have been enough. As a result far too many were never able to put their questions. There were however two questioners that stood out. A young teacher really took on those who thought that a voucher system could solve school funding and a quite brilliant speech and question about Europe, climate change and the EU was put by a young man who spoke without notes putting a carefully argued case with clarity and passion. I spoke to him afterwards and discovered he is doing his A levels in Salisbury after doing his GCSE's at KA. I was impressed.

The evening ended with drinks and refreshments. Most people stayed to chat and socialise and all I heard agreed it had been an illuminating and memorable evening.

To read more about David Heath and Annunziata Rees-Mogg see the two profiles they have done for the WW and the links to their websites.

The whole event was record, and a downloadable MP3 will be available here very shortly! What this space...

John Baxter


Posts: 1
Party Politics.
Reply #1 on : Thu April 29, 2010, 12:52:44
Having voted for all of my adult life I find it fascinating that politics seems to have change so dramatically. Gone are the days of the far left and the far right having any serious consequences.

In this current election I find that there are Conservative policies that I strongly agree with. There are Liberal Democrat policies that I agree with, and Labour policies that I agree with.

Seems that the major parties all know that they need to hold the votes of the centre ground if they are to win. What does that say for voters who vote for a party blindly, simply because they have always voted for the same party.

Clearly the waters have now been muddied, unless your leader commits a major clanger. Don't voye blindly. Vote with clarity.
John Marsh
Posts: 1
Bruton is Local
Reply #2 on : Wed May 05, 2010, 15:29:15
I am commenting to correct one point regarding the report on the hustings. The article states “clearly there was quite a group of non-locals who turned up and sat in a bunch at the front”. My picture is on the home page of the website, and as someone who lives in Bruton and whose wife works at the Growing Space in Wincanton I very much regard myself as local. Indeed those sitting to my left and right are Bruton residents as well.
Posts: 1
Reply #3 on : Wed May 12, 2010, 09:13:49
Yes. Bruton, Castle Cary and the villages around us are certainly all local. Glad you came.

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