I’ve never organised a hustings before. But I may well do so again.
Southside/Newington hadn’t had a hustings at all: Steve Burgess, Gordon MacKenzie, and Cameron Rose, three out of the four incumbents, had been invited to speak at other non-local hustings. (And Rose had also subbed in for the Tory candidate for Leith Walk in the Spurtle hustings.)
This is by no means a formal, full, neutral report – I don’t take shorthand, there were two or three hyperlocal questions where neither question nor answer was fully comprehensible to someone from outside the area, and in all honesty, I took more detailed notes where the candidates’ answers interested me and rested my hand when the speaker wasn’t holding my interest. Politically, tribally, I’m pro-Labour and Scottish Green, anti-Tory, and (at least prior to the UK coalition) was prepared to consider voting LibDem and equally prepared to consider SNP, certainly in a council election. But in general I found at this hustings that my interest was held by the speaker rather than the party.
Place: The proprietor of the Braidburn Inn donated the use of his function suite and a few plates of sandwiches, very welcome since the hustings began at six. (I was last there for a Christmas Day lunch with family in the 1990s, but it’s the local pub/guest house for our chair and for Gordon Murdie. We could probably have fitted five dozen people into the room and it was small enough that microphones were not needed.)
Chair: Owen Dudley Edwards. He is a marvellous speaker and well-experienced in keeping a meeting pleasantly in order and keeping candidates to time. (One member of the audience said to me afterwards “He just radiates calm…”) Though I had to borrow an heirloom wristwatch off Gordon Murdie to let OWD keep time – I use my mobile phone for occasions like this, and Owen Dudley Edwards does not do digital technology.
Who Came And Who Didn’t: The hustings was organised on a week’s notice, on Tuesday 1st May, in order to give as much notice as possible while not using up a candidate’s time on the last night before election day. Proper hustings etiquette would have been to contact all candidates before fixing the date, but sheer pressure of time made that really impossible.