Saturday, March 20, 2010

Federation of Small Businesses - debate report

Friday saw the first of our candidates’ debates, hosted by the Federation of Small Businesses. It was also the first time I had met my main fellow candidates for the constituency.

I was slightly apprehensive about this debate, as I would have preferred a format where they asked each of us questions individually, but in the end I quite enjoyed it and was sorry to see it brought to a close when there was still so much to say.

I had prepared by examining our policies (and those of the others) on all matters relating to small business – and reading the FSB manifesto and budget statement – but other topics came into the discussion as well. Inevitably the meeting descended into an argument over Europe but we also discussed town centre car parks, public transport, red tape, the skills of young people and planning. The national insurance rise, business rates and encouraging local enterprise did not come up.

Ian Davidson (UKIP) was clearly passionate about his cause and I discovered afterwards, that he had won a couple of votes for this. He also stood up well to Gordon before the debate as Gordon was unhappy about a UKIP leaflet.

Gordon Henderson (Conservative) was in forthright and bullish form. Initially he did well but his agent annoyed a lot of the audience by taking over the meeting to give Angela a hard time. (I didn’t want to use a plant – in case the plant asked questions I couldn’t answer!)

Sitting next to Gordon, I had a bit of difficulty getting a word in at first, but eventually got in my stride and scored a few points on public transport and on how we could make Europe work for us. I don’t think I did too badly for my first effort although maybe I was concentrating too much on getting our own view across rather than attacking those of my opponents.

Angela Harrison (Labour) was surprisingly poor. In her opening statement she essentially said she had no interest in small businesses – then instead of defending the government’s record or pointing out Labour’s ideas, she blamed civil servants for everything. I later heard that unfortunately Angela was unwell so maybe she will be back to form at the next debate.

I chatted to the audience afterwards and got mixed views on the debate – some felt there was not enough about small business discussed, others said it was good to see and hear the views of all the candidates.

Anyway, on the next debate. This is hosted by the RSPCA on the topic of animal welfare and takes place next Friday 26th.

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