I know I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed by trying to comprehend the horrors of the general election results, which are now destined to unfold over many years.
But I do feel I can say a few useful words about our constituency. The first and most important thing to say is that the people of this constituency are completely lovely. What a pleasure and a privilege to meet so many of you! I had conversations with people who confessed to being Labour and who would always vote Labour no matter what, with people who are Brexiteers and would never vote Lib Dem and with people who were delighted that I was here to fight for the values they believe in and all those conversations were friendly and engaging.
Thank you – to all of you who took the time to speak to me, and thanks especially to all who volunteered and donated to my campaign, and to all who put your trust in me by voting Liberal Democrat.
I met so many people who are warm and generous with their money and their time and who are passionate their public or charitable work. We need people like you to stay engaged in politics, and to hold your politicians to account.
So, please allow me to mention one thing which experience tells me really could and should improve: Hustings.
In this election period there were no hustings in the Bootle Constituency at all. This is incredibly rare. Most constituencies have hustings which focus on different areas of the constituency and their particular issues and on different policy areas such as the environment, education and business. Hustings can be organised by any community or action group.
Hustings matter because local issues get explored in tremendous depth, with members of the public working together with all the parliamentary candidates to understand what the problems are and to share and develop their ideas on the best ways forward. Whoever gets elected then goes to Westminster much better informed and with an improved network of contacts. I’ve previously stood in elections where I had a deep understanding of local issues and the favourite candidate didn’t. By the end of the hustings the eventual MP properly understood and could fight for, these issues because she’d heard me talk about them so many times.
Hustings is not like Questions Time where politicians rely on giving pre-prepared answers from their parties. Discussions about local issues that matter conversations are real and live and personal. Members of the public get to watch their candidates grapple with these issues and they get to know them as human beings. Hustings breeds a culture of respect between the public and their politicians and between politicians of different parties who, when the elections are over, are much more likely to work with each other on issues where others have specialist knowledge than is the case if hustings have not taken place. Hustings also help people to understand that there aren’t always experts who know the answers to our problems. Often, we have to come together as a community to try to solve our own problems.
In this election Bootle had an experienced Labour MP, a highly skilled and experienced Lib Dem, a Conservative who works in Westminster and had a variety of areas of specialist knowledge and a local Green candidate who’s involved in local campaigning groups.
Wouldn’t it have been great to have all of these people in one room, discussing the issues that really mattered to us, here in Bootle?
Because hustings did not take place our local issues with poverty, pollution, our environment, the challenges being faced by local businesses and the proposed road through Rimrose Valley were not discussed. A great deal was lost.
If you, as an individual or a group, want to hold a hustings in Bootle, you have my support – and if you have questions about how to get them off the ground, get in touch with me now – no need to wait for an election!
On that note, community politics doesn’t end with the election. If you want to get stuck in, please consider joining us.