Monday, November 5, 2012

My MEP Campaign Part Three - Fireworks, Hustings and Socialists

On Saturday 3 November, I met some Lewisham and Beckenham North Liberal Democrats for a firework supper. There I chatted to several members while munching a delicious lamb curry before we all went up to Blackheath. This was the first time I had seen the Blackheath fireworks and I was mightily impressed by the colours and display on offer. I was also surprised by the thousands of people who had come out on a cold November night to be present.

It seemed rather brief, about 20 minutes, but I was later informed that this was because one of the two councils next to the park (LB Greenwich) had withdrawn their funding and hence the organisers had to cut their costs. However there were no complaints from the crowd who all appeared to be in high spirits and enjoying the spectacle.

Sunday 4 November was the Members’ Meeting – the Hustings for all the London European candidates which was held in Euston Road.

We each had to do a five minute presentation followed by five minutes of questions. My speech seemed to go down OK and I was glad to have timed it perfectly by getting the 30 second warning as I entered my final paragraph. I will publish this shortly but touched upon my policy for the campaign, my attributes as a candidate, and my vision of the EU.

While the EU is far from perfect, there are many positive benefits of UK membership which we do not push enough. The Liberal Democrats are the only positive pro-EU party, the only party to put the UK’s interests first at the heart of Europe, and this is what we should say again and again.

There was a question on education, and another on why I am running for London, before I was floored by two on the Middle East. How do I propose to solve the Arab-Israel conflict? (answer in thirty seconds!?!) and do I agree with the EU’s policy on Iran? (thinks: what is the EU policy on Iran?)

Much of this day was spent in a hallway chatting to the other candidates while waiting our turn, and this experience only emphasised my comments from an earlier entry. We are blessed to have such an effective and capable line-up of candidates to put before the party’s members. However, this makes it a lot more difficult for me! But whatever happens, the end product will be a very strong team of eight to campaign for the Lib Dems across London and that can’t be bad.

It was interesting to eavesdrop on the Socialism 2012 rally being held in the same building in a large and packed hall. They had a number of speakers who each shouted loudly about a general strike and each getting a very warm reception. The bits I heard were complete nonsense, of course, and it is safe to say that Ed Miliband would not have been very welcome, but I’ll say this for the socialists, the souvenir stands were fascinating with some very interesting publications and papers on display. Tempting as it was to buy a couple of books, I thought better of it.

After the individual presentations, there were panel sessions whereby the candidates were each asked submitted questions. My only criticism of this process was that the chairman asked the questions instead of the questioner. I understand the need for questions to be approved but I felt that if the member read out their own question, and we could answer directly to him/her, it would have increased the interaction in the room, instead of the audience listening to the top table all the time.

Overall, a tough but enjoyable day. The London Liberal Democrats have all been sent their voting papers and our manifestos and have three weeks to think about it – so the campaign goes on.

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