I had originally planned on discussing manifestos this week. Something that would have a lot easier if I actually had the manifestos to hand! Unfortunately none of the parties has released theirs so far and we will have to speak instead of the Battles of the Hustings'
Three such events have been on my agenda so far. My first was on the 26th of March for the Edinburgh North Lib Dem candidate who could not attend his Common Weal Hustings as he was stuck on an oil platform overseas! It was a good first experience and a good though mildly hostile audience as they were mainly YES voting and far left leaning. A good audience for Left Unity( a new party ), SNP, Greens and Labour in descending order. Ranging from mildly receptive to indifferent to mildly hostile to the Lib Dems and very hostile to UKIP and the Conservatives.
My best received comment was about increasing diversity of representation in parliament, both of people and of parties. My worst received comment which I had expected of a far left audience was my opposition to a position by the Greens and Left Unity that a £10 minimum wage should be legislated for in the next parliament. Yes you read that right, a £10 minimum wage!!! Yes practice owners, I just heard you drop your iPads, iPhones and laptops to the ground! I did make the point that it would be very difficult for small employers and that many services would either have to be sacrificed of reduced to fund such an idea! I was open to raising it to £8 by 2020, but £10 is just a step too far for anyone not in London! In any case it would make it tricky for NHS dedicated practices and fledgling private ones too. I got a hear, hear from the conservative candidate when I was speaking about the benefits, values and achievements of the coalition. He gave a non response to the suggestion that coalition governments will be the norm from now on! But that is something that is looking likely with the way the polls are heading.
My second hustings was with students at Edinburgh University on the 30th of March. This was an Edinburgh South hustings and a very interesting one as each candidate was accompanied by a student of their party! Law student Jonathan Ainslie joined me.
As expected, we got abuse over tuition fees and the audience laughed at us when I said that there were limitations to what a smaller party could achieve in coalition, that we could not win on every policy. Then I got applause for support for the post study work visa. Obviously! You do not mine a diamond, shape it to brilliance and return it to the mine! The Labour and SNP candidates had a lot of support from the audience as their student associations attended in full strength.
My most recent one was a pan Edinburgh hustings with the English Speaking Union in Edinburgh on 7th April. This was a well balanced audience with all parties' supporters in the audience.
I got thunderous applause and laughter when I turned to the SNP candidate and said " the Lib Dems lost a referendum ( AV ) and moved on, it would be good if certain other people who lost their referendum moved on too! " very well received that! Excellent questions about TTIP, post study work visa, Human Rights, Austerity, Trident, and so many other areas. It was a balanced debate and a balanced audience. Young journalists from the wonderful website 50for15.com were in attendance. It is a website following the 50 most marginal seats at the election.
Now let's hope that all parties get their fingers out and release their manifestos next week!