Chris Black writes:
Last night’s hustings was a pretty boisterous affair. The chairman allowed some of the audience to make some brief comments during the debate , which sometimes got quite heated. But the event was fundamentally good-natured.
The clear loser on the night was UKIP. Their candidate didn’t come and crucially didn’t have anyone deputising for him.
The other four candidates – Tory, Green, Labour and Lib Dem – could all go home reasonably satisfied,. None of them did badly. But I thought the Lib Dem and Labour guys (Ron Tindall and Mark Daniels) did a little better than the Conservative and Green (Mark Francois and Paul Hill).
Ron Tindall is an experienced campaigner and that showed last night. He didn’t give any weak answers, he was comfortable on the local issues and confident and combative on the national ones. He had the audience laughing with him once or twice , and one independent observer that I spoke to afterwards seemed reasonably impressed by him. Hec also said more about green issues that the Green party candidate.
Mark Daniels did very well for what was apparently his first hustings. He struck an early rapport with the audience, and although he wasn’t particularly convincing on Labour’s financial programme, overall he had a good night.
It was also Paul Hill’s first hustings , and he did a decent job, coming over as sincere and intelligent. He hinted that he would like to stand again in further elections, and I look forward to seeing him again in the future.
Mark Francois had the advantage of being an experienced MP , and the disadvantage of having to defend the government’s record. He wasn’t helped by one prominent Tory councillor standing up and saying “We don’t want to hear what the public think”. Probably his best moment of the night was when he was explaining how foreign aid included sending British troops to Sierra Leone to help hospitals cope with the Ebola virus. That had me applauding. But his responses on the downgrading of Southend A&E (he’s basically waiting for more information) and on fox hunting (he would vote to bring it back) were not well received by the audience.