I gather that South Thanet PPC's including our current sitting MP, gathered at Holy Trinity Church, Broadstairs on Friday evening to set out their stalls for the coming election, to a gathering of about 66 Thanet residents. Before I post up the report I have received from a correspondent who attended, I found it interesting as I searched for info on the candidates. Steve Ladyman and Laura Sandys are using the web well, but Trevor Shonk (UKIP) and Peter Bucklitsch (Lib Dem) are not so savvy. I have no pic or biography on Trevor and I hope the picture of the flaming torch bearer is the correct Peter Bucklitsch who seems to be on Crowborough Town Council? No biography of him either.
Anyway, here's the report:
'I was on Saddam's Hit-list' or so Laura Sandys, Conservative Parliamentary candidate for S. Thanet told the audience on Friday evening. Odd that since she opposed the Iraq invasion.
When I first got to vote many years ago, huge public meetings where candidates were heckled and arguments among the audience erupted were the norm but nowadays they are rarely held. Friday's event held in Holy Trinity, Broadstairs was a welcome opportunity for local church-goers to put questions to the main party candidates.
The rather too carefully stage-managed event for my taste featured about six questions put by members of Broadstairs and Cliftonville churches. The Lib. Dem. candidate was very late due to traffic problems so the evening started with Laura Sandys, Dr. Stephen Ladyman, Labour, and Trevor Shonk for UKIP who proved that his party has only one policy, 'get out of the EU' as he had nothing constructive to say on education, the NHS, trade or equality.
Laura Sandys ably demonstarted her PR credentials, name-dropping Tory grandees and talking a great deal about herself.She was heckled twice, just like in the old days, for not answering the question properly and for ducking the reference in a question to Lord Ashcroft's tax affairs.
She did say the Conservatives would be 'hands-off with schools and hospitals' so taxpayers' money would be given to these institutions but the politicians wouldn't interfere. On teenage mothers she said they would be put into mother and baby units rather than be given accommodation 'where their friends would be visiting at all hours'. Sounds a bit like turning the clock back to me when unwed mothers were sent away from their families because of the 'scandal' they caused.
On the topic of teenage mothers Dr. Ladyman said he preferred to educate young men in their responsibilities and to encourage young women to 'have ambition in life beyond having a baby early'.
When both Trevor Shonk and Laura Sandys raised the country's debt and misquoted statistics more likely to be found in the Daily Mail, Dr. Ladyman was able to give accurate figures and to show how we compared with other developed countries and how the government had saved the banks and protected the savings of those of us present. The question is now when best to deal with the budget deficit as if the wrong moves are made too soon the country will slip back into recession. He admitted the expenses scandal had been a traumatic time for him and other politicians. His expenses had always been available online.
When a question was asked about green technology Laura Sandys did say a Conservative government would roll out a network of recharging units for electric cars but wasn't too pleased, it seems, to be told that the Labour Government had already agreed a £34m. package for just such units (although it seems from this weekend's news that not one council in Kent has taken up the offer).
The Lib. Dem. candidate, Peter Buckledge ( Ed: Bucklitsch), I think he's called, arrived about 90 minutes in so it's difficult to comment on his approach as he only had time for one question.
My opinion of the evening? I would have liked the chance to put supplementary questions to the candidates and feel that more opportunity should have been given to the candidates to reply to their opponents.
Were I neutral how would I have judged things?
Laura Sandys is good on what she knows but needs to avoid the name-dropping as it doesn't impress and says more about her ego than her politics.
Dr. Ladyman is very well-informed and gets his points across positively. When he was able, if he answered after the others, to point out their inaccuracies he did so politely and firmly but it was clear Laura Sandys isn't used to being told when she's wrong.
Trevor Shonk? Not a natural politician and he belongs to a single issue party although he did say it has a Christian ethos despite their refusal to give aid to the former Commonwealth as 'the money just gets spent on guns'.
Peter Buckledge? Couldn't say as he wasn't there long enough although he does have an odd idea that candidates shouldn't need to belong to the party for which they're standing. I thought that was one of David Cameron's ideas.
One final point. Laura Sandys needs to find which wards her campaign should be targeting as there was one resident present on the evening from Dane Valley who regularly gets Laura Sandys' leaflets delivered. No, sorry, Dane Valley will still be in N. Thanet and the Conservative candidate will still be Roger Gale.