The Hustings of all Hustings
The 'Last chance to meet the Candidates' hustings last night was absolutely amazing. Was informed the Independent had sent out well over 500 tickets and the Regional office more that. With 1200+ people expected wasn't sure with the bad weather if they would all turn up. They did. The hall and the stalls were filled to capacity.
All that hard work organizing everything and with an army of helpers the set-up went like clockwork. I feel so proud that the best hustings was in London and we organized it. We have a wonderful Regional administrator, Flick Rea with whom I do have a good working relationship - we are of the same bossy mode and muck in rather than give blank orders. Couldn't have even completed my part of the work without some willing hands going the extra mile. You know the old A-team saying "It's great when a plan comes together".
Have to admit the Independent pulled out all the stops. Quite surprised the number of different media present. Recognised Nick Robinson sitting in the row in front of me when the hustings started.
The earlier Regional Spring Conference was rather overshadowed by the hype of the hustings. Despite being a conference rep I didn't have time to even take part. My only contribution was to organize the decor. It even started before I could get the water and glasses to the high-table. Had to whisper in the ear of the chair, Sean Hooker that he should inform the delegates a special area in the husting hall was set aside for them because some were seen leaving, worried they wouldn't get a seat.
My impressions of the Candidates. Well they were given a table at the entrance for their teams to present their wares. Thought Ming's group went a little overboard with all their balloons. All of them seem to have an abundance of unused literature - can't help thinking of all the wasted money.
About their performance - well not much to say really as it's been said before.
Ming gave the classic polished old school elderly statesman type of presentation - with passion and some humour. In his closing remarks he surprised everybody - he suddenly lost his cool. When asked what he had learned about the other two candidates during the leadership contest, Ming's caustic response. "I've learned from Simon how not to answer the bloody question". There was a gasp from some members of the audience - think Simon was a little taken aback but he didn't rise to the bate.
Chris with his business man style really needs to work on his humorous side. He may be the darling of the media but he didn't seem to engage with the audience coming across as stern and slightly dry. Most of his rhetoric and response to questions was a revamp of what he's already said - all about policy and economics - nothing new. He went on far to long in some parts trying to reinforce his points - doesn't seem to have the skill of saying three words instead of six.
Simon in his usual enamatic style remove the microphone from the stand and spoke from the heart just occasionally glancing at his notes . Unfortunately his speech was interrupted by some hecklers (later identified by the Evening Standard as Masher Fontaine & Raymond Stevenson) who tried to highjack the event by bringing in a Southwark (his constituency) local dispute. They were venting their anger at the Council group leader Nick Stanton and the council exec (a long standing issue) shouting out they are "racist". Simon seem to be at the brunt of their rage for not having done anything to remedy the situation. There were claims he had neglected the black community and the racist chant was turned on him.
It was a bit off-putting and other members from the audience were clearly irritated but there were no 'heavies' (remember the Labour conference) and no violence. After being booed and following a show hand-clap with some firm persuation from Dr Abdur-Rahman Olayiwola (a black councillor from Southwark) and other members they left the hall. Must say it added a bit of spice to the event.
As to who performed the best I have to say Simon again. Not because I'm backing him but because he was just natural and spontaneous about everything. The audience seem to warm to him especially after the heckling.
The show closed running long over time but nobody seemed in a hurry to leave. Networking, chatting, gossiping and all the usual stuff. Most of the Media equipment and other bits and bobs were cleared away before the last stragglers left the building. Even as Flick, Matthew Wherry & I rushed off there were still some journalists left behind busy typing their copy to meet the deadlines for the early morning editions.
The whole evening didn't have a moment to myself to really chat to anybody. There were lots of 'Hello Susanne'. One familar face from Islington spoke to me as I rushed passed. Had to stop - he warmed the cockles of my heart when he said he was impressed with the organisation and turnout. Also had a giggle with Lynne Featherstone about her Guido & the monkey podcast which I've been meaning to comment on.It's now done and dusted. All I can say is well done London Region. Now we have to wait for the result.