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Chris Galley

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Thursday 16 April – Ashington Hustings

I had my first hustings of the campaign last night. It was organised by Ashington Churches Together, and there was quite a good turn out, 100 or 120 participants I would guess. It was chaired by Rev. Peter Sinclair of Newbiggin. In this photo, the candidates were from left to right: Ian Lavery (Labour), Melanie Hurst (UKIP), Fr. Peter chairing, Chris Hedley (Green), Chris Galley (Conservative), and “the Liberal Democrat Representative”.

I will blog about this bizarre outcome separately, but Tom Hancock “was working and wasn’t released by his employer”, which incidentally, is the Liberal Democrats! So he was tied up in Berwick and unable to get to Ashington. I was under the impression that the Liberal Democrats have another candidate in Berwick who could have perhaps answered the telephone at 8pm if necessary, but I’m easily confused. Anyway, his place was taken by the well known Cllr. Andrew Tebbutt, who is Tom’s agent.

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We were given 5 questions 48 hours beforehand so we had some time to think about our answers:

1) Jesus showed care for the children. How would you & your party improve the life-chances of the children of Ashington?

2) There has been some new money, but the fact remains, overall mental health spending has been reduced by 8% over the past 5 years. Will your party commit to increase overall spending on health?

3) As the UK is one of the world’s richest countries, what will you do to speak out for the poor & vulnerable around the world?

4) As the age of the Two Party domination within British politics begins to wane, what do you see as the pros & cons of coalition?

5) Freedom of speech is a valued part of our society. Where do we draw the line in allowing racist content on ‘The Web’ before taking it down?

I was reasonably happy with my answers to 2 to 5, I didn’t do so well on question 1. I think some of the other candidates over-researched their brief, reeling off statistic after statistic, which merely proves they are a dab hand at operating Google.  I was impressed with Chris Hedley, it was his first ever public political engagement and he carried himself very well. He certainly won the prize for the smartest turned out candidate, perhaps as rebuttal to the sandals and sack-cloth cliché!

The meeting came alive on the aid to the Third World question. My view was that UKIP’s stance on this – to cut our 0.7% contribution of Gross National Income is utterly immoral and wrong, and the other candidates clearly felt the same. Ian Lavery ripped into UKIP on that very point, the fact that their supporters got rattled so much by his arguments suggests to me how they realise this is a considerable weak spot in their manifesto.

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I am grateful for Ashington Churches Together for organising this. The photos come from the Twitter feed of Sally, the NCEA chaplain.

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