Oxford East Hustings 16 May

The first hustings of the election campaign in Oxford East was held in Cowley Road Methodist Church on the evening of 16 May. It was organised by Oxford for Europe (@OxfordStays).

I estimate that about 150 people turned out to hear four of the five candidates answer questions under the chairmanship of Will Hutton (@williamnhutton), political economist and journalist (Observer, Guardian) and principal of Hertford College. The speakers were Larry Sanders (Green), Chaka Artwell (Ind), Anneliese Dodds (Lab) and Kirsten Johnson (LibDem). Suzanne Bartington (Con) had been invited but did not attend; instead she was out campaigning in Hinksey Park.

I won’t try to repeat everything that was said – I couldn’t anyway – but I’ll mention a few of the points and try to give an impression of how the evening went.

After brief introductions the first question was how much the UK should be prepared to pay to continue being able to trade with Europe. No-one really answered the original question but it gave the candidates an opportunity to explore their positions on Europe more widely, including the matter of a second referendum. In line with the LibDem manifesto (published the next day), Kirsten Johnson wants a referendum on the final deal before it is enacted. Anneliese Dodds’ position was a little more nuanced – before the referendum she campaigned for Remain but promised to abide by the result. She now says she would feel ‘hypocritical’ if she held out for a second referendum although she remains passionately pro-Europe and wants the UK to get the best possible deal.

Larry Sanders’ position is firmly in line with Green policy – he is opposed to Brexit and will fight to try to make sure it doesn’t happen. Chaka Artwell had already declared his position in his introduction; he wants the UK ‘out of Europe’ but ‘ruling ourselves’. But he also wants ‘free trade with them’.

On the next question, the rights of EU immigrants living in the UK, everyone agreed that their rights should be protected. Anneliese Dodds (who is an MEP) gave an EU insider’s analysis of why the idea of British citizens being given some form of EU citizenship post-Brexit was a non-runner.

It was the same with a question about the car industry and the Mini plant in particular. Every speaker said everything possible should be done to protect jobs, with Larry sanders being strongest about the inevitability of job losses if we fail to stay in the single market.

There was more, but the final question for which I have a note was about Brexit’s impact on Oxford’s scientific and research work. Once again everyone recognised its importance and wanted to protect it as far as possible, with freedom of movement for scientists essential. There was general concern about the future of Culham in this context, and over the government’s apparent determination to withdraw from Euratom. (This is an important issue but not one I intend to go into here.)

Artwell was the only one of the four wanting the UK ‘out of Europe’. He would save money by abandoning the UK’s nuclear weapons, and instead spend it on rebuilding manufacturing industry in the regions where it has most declined.

Sanders tended to take a broader, longer-term view in his contributions. He spoke strongly about ‘austerity’ being a political choice, and hopes to see a time when people reject the political agenda of successive governments and move towards a fairer, less unequal society.

The main conclusion I draw from the meeting is that pro-Europe voters in Oxford East have a problem deciding who to vote for. There’s precious little difference on this issue between the Lab, LibDem and Green candidates. Sanders would pull the plug tomorrow if that were possible but supports the public having another say when the full implications are known. Johnson (as per the LibDem manifesto) wants the negotiations to go ahead with a second referendum when the exit terms are known, with the option to stay in the EU. I found Dodds’ position less clear – passionately pro-Europe but accepting that Brexit is going to happen. In saying this she is, I think, following Labour’s manifesto, but given her obvious strong feelings whether she would maintain that position come what may (pun intended) it’s not possible to say. If Brexit happens they all want things to be as close to what they are now – protected rights, unimpaired access to the European market, reciprocal rights for citizens, and so on.

One last thing to mention. When the chairman was taking questions and comments from the floor someone in the audience asked “How can we send a message about how disgusted we are that the Conservative candidate isn’t here this evening?” The chairman asked for a show of hands – did people agree? The response was overwhelmingly ‘Yes’. Did anyone disagree? No hands raised.

Chaka Artwell (Independent)

My name is Artwell. I am standing as a candidate in the Oxford East Parliamentary elections. The reason I am standing is to air issues which I do not believe receive the attention they ought. I am demanding:

  • All those hurt, made homeless or stateless by English Bombs or our support for WAR be given medical treatment and a home here in England.
  • Now that the publicly rescued BANKS are back to profit, these banks repay the loan taken out by the Treasury in are to save the Banks. This one act will save the Treasury £120 million daily and the Treasury could afford to fund our public services.
  • Affordable Housing must mean affordable for the income of Oxford people.

This is a sample of the issues I wish to bring to the attention of Oxford east people.

Oxford East Online Hustings

We now know the names of the candidates standing for election in Oxford East.

To give the candidates a chance to put their cases to the voters some hustings have been arranged. At the time of writing I know of:

Of course not everyone interested in hearing the candidates will be able to get to one of these meetings. So I thought I’d try something new – an online hustings. Here’s how it works. At the end of this post I ask four questions about issues that are critical to our lives over the coming years, nationally and locally. Each question is repeated as a stand-alone post to be the start of a thread. I invite all the candidates to post their answers as comments on these threads; please use the individual threads rather than adding comments on this one. Anyone else can respond and ask questions too – just post a comment. If you have a suggestion for a new question send it to me as a comment on this post and I will consider making a new thread for it. I will moderate comments in accordance with my standard practice (see the About page). You can also reach me through my twitter @TonyOX3 and by email on the address on the About page.

You can also join in the conversations on twitter. Independent candidate Chaka Artwell is not on twitter but the other four are. I’ve listed their their twitter handles here. All four have been invited to take part in this experiment, and I will happily invite Mr Artwell too if anyone can tell me how to contact him.

Let’s see if we can get a conversation going!

Questions to candidates – follow the links to the individual thread pages. The comments box only appears when you are viewing a single post.

  1. Brexit – another referendum? Oxford East voted roughly 2:1 for ‘Remain’1. Would you vote for there to be a second EU referendum before the UK leaves the EU a) whatever the outcome of the negotiations, b) depending on the outcome of the negotiations, or c) you would not support a second referendum in any circumstances?
    1. Oxford City referendum vote 70.3%; Oxford East 67% (est.)
  2. Brexit – would you pull the plug? If as negotiations with the EU proceed it becomes clear that leaving the EU, with all the other implications that will emerge, would seriously damage the country’s economy and the well-being of its citizens and non-UK residents, would you ever be prepared to join other MPs who might combine to oppose Brexit?
  3. How to end austerity? Since 2010 first the coalition and then the Conservative government have followed a policy of ‘austerity’. The annual budget deficit has fallen but is still higher than before the financial crisis of 2008, and total government debt has increased2. This has led to significant cuts in public services and there is no sign of this ending. How do you (and your party) intend to move the country out of this unsustainable position?
    2. Public sector current budget deficit (excluding public sector banks): 2010 = 97.124bn; 2016 = 22.431bn. Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks): 2010 = 1136.0bn; 2016 = 1710.8bn
  4. The future government of Oxfordshire. The Oxford city region has a thriving economy and is one of the few parts of the country to make a net positive contribution to the national economy. Oxford City is at the region’s heart and is world-famous both as a tourist destination and as a centre for learning and research. Under restructuring proposals put forward by Oxfordshire County Council and two local District Councils the City’s status would be similar to that of a Parish Council. In your role as a local MP what model of governance for Oxford and Oxfordshire would you advocate and support?