IN AN episode of Blackadder, Rowan Atkinson's
character explains that his candidate, Baldrick, will fight the
Dunny-on-the-Wold by-election on policies, not personalities -
because his candidate has no personality.
The line was recalled by the Conservative candidate
George Grant, as he explained that the same could not be said of
the candidates in the Bradford West constituency, where George
Galloway is seeking re-election to the seat that he won in a 2012
by-election for his Respect Party.
Seven of the eight candidates for the seat attended a
People Inspired hustings (see story below) at Bradford Cathedral
on Sunday night, in front of 200 members of the public.
If the audience were hoping for a repeat of the
previous constituency hustings, where Mr Galloway accused his
Labour opponent, Naz Shah, of making up a story about being forced
into marriage at the age of 15 in Pakistan, and told the chair that
"no one will stop me from speaking" when she attempted to call him
to order, they would have been disappointed.
The event, chaired by the Dean of Bradford, the
Very Revd Jerry Lepine, was, instead, an evening of mainly
respectful dialogue - though Harry Boota, of UKIP, said:
"Politicians are like babies' nappies: they should be changed
often, for the same reason." At this point he sniffed Mr Galloway,
and said: "It's time for change."
The independent candidate, James Kirkcaldy, said that
the entire political system was corrupt and in need of change.
The traditional party candidates appeared to follow
TV-drama stereotypes: Mr Grant was dressed in a suit, polished
shoes, and double-cuffed shirt; Mr Shah wore a suit with a red
jacket; and the Liberal Democrat candidate, Alun Griffiths, wore an
open-necked shirt over a pair of jeans.
Subjects covered at the event were education, the
seeming battle for resources between London and the regions,
employment, and the Bishops' pastoral letter.
On education, the Green Party candidate, Celia Hickson, wanted
smaller class sizes, and formal schooling to start at the age of
seven. Mr Kirkcaldy spoke of the problem of drugs in schools. Mr
Shah wanted class sizes capped; Mr Griffiths wanted an increase in
funding; and Mr Boota wanted a return to academically selective
Mr Grant said that it was time to change the "tyranny of low
expectation", and Mr Galloway called on the "failing" leaders of
Bradford's education authority to be sacked and replaced with
people that had achieved success elsewhere.
He also warned that going to war against "Muslim country after
Muslim country" would lead to a "war against the Muslims at home. .
. If you pump the airwaves and the media full of Islamophobic
argument to support your war, the people at home are not going to
differentiate between Mohammed who runs the corner shop, and the
tyrant you say we have to go halfway around the world to
Mr Grant said that greater respect would come from greater
understanding. "There is so much that we have in common."
Early planning makes hustings run smoothly
FIVE cathedrals are staging a programme of activities to
encourage Christians to engage with General Election
Under the banner People InSpired, the cathedrals at Bradford,
Derby, Lichfield, Manchester, and Portsmouth have staged
preliminary discussions between politicians and members of the
public to identify issues of concern. These are being fed into a
series of constituency hustings in the cathedrals.
A "Community White Paper" will then be produced to summarise
"the key points and outcomes from the forums"; and will be shared
with local and national politicians.
"People InSpired is all about putting people back into politics
and decision-making," the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian
Dorber, said. "It is important that national and local
representatives hear everyone's voice."
Speaking after the Bradford West hustings on Sunday night, the
Dean of Bradford, the Very Revd Jerry Lepine, said that the event
was "an immensely respectful evening".
"A cathedral is a safe space to have difficult conversations,
but it is also a space that imposes itself on people, and makes
them think twice before they say things that are
The preliminary meeting in the People InSpired programme had
meant that the cathedral was "very well prepared" for the hustings
event, he said.
The idea for People InSpired came from the Cathedral Innovation
Centre, and the Association for English Cathedrals, who say:
"England is missing spaces for people to come together and discuss
the topics covered by People InSpired."
Cathedrals, churches, and faith groups are hosting other
constituency hustings and political events leading up to the
The Quakers have organised a series of issue-based hustings
events, where representatives of different political parties have
been invited to discuss particular themes.