Cambridge Elections – the Queen Edith’s hustings, 25 Apr 2023

How do you conduct yourself in a campaign where some of the voters knew you as a child and were on first name terms with your grandparents at one end, and others are familiar with your name because their children are friends with the children of your siblings?

You can watch the playlist of videos from the event here. (A higher-quality version of the debate on the proposed Greater Cambridge Partnership’s plans for road user/congestion charging will follow later).

For those of you who want to help out with costs of production/town owl upkeep expenses, feel free to drop a few pennies in at (If you’re helping with election expenses, please type in ‘Elections’ in the message so I can account for it in the return I have to submit to the Electoral authorities.

The Queen Edith’s hustings at St John’s Church Hall on Hills Road

These are normally organised by the Queen Edith’s Community Forum. This was the first time we had one since the first lockdown, so was the first one of the 2020s in person.

My opening speech is as below:

As is traditional when I film hustings, I try to create separate videos of introduction speeches from candidates (which I have done so in this year’s playlist)

This is because it enables voters to see and hear from the candidates directly, and for many who don’t follow politics closely that is often all they need to decide on whether a candidate is one they want to vote for.

I’ll save any comments until after the election because as I’ve said in my opening addresses (see here and scroll down to see the links) my big picture aim is to achieve an overhaul of how our city is governed in the longer term, rather than trying to achieve something within a system that I consider broken, obsolete, and incapable of enabling us to deal with the huge problems and challenges the 21stC has thrown up. Hence during the hustings I repeatedly urged local residents to discuss our broken structures of local governance with the candidates so they could raise them with those at the top of their parties with a view to changing their policies.

I asked political parties to raise the profile of our broken structures over six weeks ago

See my blogpost here. When it became clear that none was going to do so, and that you don’t get much media coverage unless you get your name on a ballot paper, I wasn’t really left with much choice. Yet today there seems to have been a strange co-incidence of similar-sounding calls about broken structures of local government. One of them is in this week’s Cambridge Independent,

Above from Martin Lucas-Smith & Chris Howell – anyone want to lead a Cambs Unitaries Campaign? (It can’t be me as I’m not a leader of people)

Create a cross-party Commission on the future governance of England – Petition to Parliament

You can read and sign the petition here (please share widely!) – basically it calls for the recommendations from the Commons Public Administration & Constitutional Affairs Committee to be implemented.

More group surveys for candidates

Mill Road, Cambridge

For people who live in and around the Mill Road area, there’s this survey of candidates by Mill Road – a Street for the People. Candidates from Romsey, Petersfield, and Coleridge have been invited to respond. (Candidates! Please respond to them!)

Cambridge Acorn – ban slum landlords

This was straight-forward for me as:

  1. I am a member of Cambridge Acorn (you can join too! It’s a community union – read their intro here) as someone who can’t even afford to rent in Cambridge, let alone live independently
  2. I have lived in slum housing before in my uni days in Brighton – something I’ve never forgiven my old university (Sussex) for even though it was over 20 years ago. I can bear historical grudges for a very long time!

Therefore I have lived experience of how being in such a situation can completely screw up a person’s life and career path – as this did mine to some extent. (I made the best of it in that I ended up spending less time at uni and more time with activists in Brighton just as The Greens were taking off – so getting a real grounding in what was a new field of environmental economics.) But it also meant that I never got to make the lifelong friendships that I was told I’d make at uni by older generations when I started applying. Time spent looking for accommodation is time not spent being on the lookout for other opportunities that might come your way. The economic, social, public health, and environmental costs of slum housing are massive. Which is why the journalism of Victoria Spratt is ever so important.

You can listen to Ms Spratt in this discussion at the Bristol Ideas Festival and also get hold of her book Tenants (2022 – Profile Books Ltd).

One thing that slightly surprised me about the debate was that housing wasn’t raised as an issue – and that was in part reflected by the demographic of people who turned up to the hustings: older, more settled generations of our neighbourhood. This is not a new challenge – it’s a longer term challenge of encouraging people easily overlooked in local public policy debates to take part. Or rather having existing institutions overhauling how they engage with the general public. How do we ensure policy is not shaped by the same groups and cohorts? How do we ensure a more diverse range of people can scrutinise the same information sets while bringing their own lived experiences and perspectives that policy-makers might not have sight of? (See the methods that InvolveUK has tried).

CamCycle’s survey debated on Cambridge 105

You can listen to the radio discussion between Anna Williams and Julian Clover here. (Declaration of interest – I am a member of CamCycle and also have a monthly local history slot on Cambridge 105 with Alex Elbro!). Cambridge 105’s hustings with Trevor Dann has also been uploaded here to listen to.

South of the River (Cam) vs North of the River.

You can have a watch/listen of the East Chesterton Hustings filmed by Chris Howell. Although only a handful of audience members turned up, the video has had over 160 views in the past three days, so it goes to show that filming such events can be of interest to people even if they cannot make the event itself.

Do send in your questions to your candidates via – you only need to type in your postcode to see the candidates standing in your area.

Voting day is on 4th of May – and sadly you will need to bring some Photo ID

In the meantime, I hope the videos help people understand some of the issues more clearly, feel encouraged to put more detailed questions to candidates, and ultimately be more motivated to vote – and cast an informed vote based on what they’ve read and heard.

Food for thought?

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

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