This guest blog post is written by Sr. Gillian Price FC, a long-standing Results advocate with our Stort Valley and Online groups. In it, she shares her experience of raising international development issues at pre-election ‘hustings’ events, where candidates are questioned on their views on a range of topics.

Gill Price 3 Copy 2
Results grassroots advocate Gillian Price

You can find guides online on how to organising hustings events, such as this one from the United Nations Association. But in this post I have put down a few thoughts from my own experience of attending hustings.

My experience with hustings has usually been at those organised by groups such as Churches Together which are more friendly towards asking development questions. So it may be worth checking if one of these events is being planning near you now.

Sometimes you have to pre-submit a question. Many hustings Chairs tend to group the questions together and make their own choices, but there is usually also a chance for people to ask questions from the floor. My feeling is that you have a better chance of getting your question as it stands if you are able to ask a question from the floor on the night, but better still, why not get one person to pre-submit a question and then another to be ready with their pre-written question to ask?

You are attending as a voter – the candidates all want your vote! Whoever is chairing the proceedings does not want any aggro from pressure groups, so is more likely to choose you to ask a question if you are not obviously representing a group, therefore, it can be good not wear any distinguishing clothes such as a T-shirt with a logo on.

If there is more than one of you, it’s best not to sit together or be seen together. This multiplies your chance of getting your question answered. It’s good to sit fairly near the front, but not the very front row as you are more likely to catch the eye of the Chair. I reckon the seat next to the middle aisle of the second row from the front is a good place!

Show an open, relaxed, interested face to all the questions, and smile if you can! This will identify you to the Chair as a reasonable person. Makes notes of all the candidates’ replies to questions – this is how you learn about your next MP (as one of them is going to be elected), and they might say something which could be of use in future meetings with them, as you can quote their words back to them! It can be a good idea to divide the questions and answers up between you, as you can then concentrate on one question each.

Do try to talk to all the candidates you can after the meeting, especially the ones most likely to get elected. Introduce yourself and comment on anything you were particularly interested by. Make a note of the names of their support staff too, and get some contact details written down. This is useful information for the future. I have had a photo taken with one or two of them too. I remember on one memorable hustings, Results asked us to ask the candidates to make a commitment to eradicating poverty, and we had a sheet with a slogan on that they could be photographed with. They all had their photos taken with the sheet.

At one hustings, the new Tory candidate (who was subsequently elected as MP) remembered my question on hustings night, and referred to it in the group’s first meeting with her (via Zoom). Her comment on the merger of DfID (the former Department for International Development) and the Foreign Office was, “Gill’s not going to like that” (having assured me at the hustings that no such merger was being contemplated!

You can find Results’ guide to reaching all the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates in your local constituency, including via attending hustings, here.