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Hustings But No Tories

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Haddenham Village Society has organised a public meeting ('Hustings') scheduled for 21st April, at which candidates standing in the forthcoming local elections will be given an opportunity to express their political priorities if elected and answer questions from the audience. All candidate were invited but the Conservative candidates have declined to participate. The Hustings will therefore go ahead without them.

Here's the official statement from the Village Society:

The Committee of the Haddenham Village Society has authorised me, as Chair, to issue the following statement.

Haddenham Village Society

Hustings for BCC election, Wednesday 21st April 2021

For several years, the Haddenham Village Society has arranged hustings for local and national elections. These have been well attended and are apparently valued by the Society's members and other residents; they have always been open to any resident.

The Society and its committee contains members of all political parties and none and has arranged the hustings events, at some expense, as a public service.

We therefore arranged a hustings event for 21st April and invited all candidates to attend. By law, public meetings cannot be held at the moment and we have therefore organised a Zoom event. As with other recent meetings, we intend to record the meeting and make it available to members and others via the haddenham.net YouTube channel.

The Conservative agent asked that the event should not be recorded. Among the reasons cited by Conservative representatives was that the recording might be tampered with, using artificial intelligence, to misrepresent the Conservative candidates.

I initially agreed to the request to cancel the recording, because it is illegal to disseminate a recording without the consent of those who have been recorded. The committee of HVS then considered the matter and decided that, in current circumstances, it was essential for the democratic process that as many people as possible should have access, by means of a recording, to the views of the candidates.

It was proposed that, to accommodate the views of the Conservative candidates, the recording should be edited by Keith Milmer, the editor of Haddenham.net, to remove their contribution to the event from the recording, which would then be circulated via YouTube. This decision was given to all the twelve candidates who have been nominated and they were asked to give their explicit consent to this procedure.

Nine of the candidates have given their consent. The three Conservative candidates have not done so and, instead, we received a message from the Conservative agent stating that they would not participate in the event at all. The email message is as follows:

Dear Roderick
I am sorry for the late reply to your email, but I am sure you understand the sad news last week took over.

The Association and its candidates have always taken the opportunity to take part in the Hustings organized by the Haddenham Society for local elections. The candidates enjoy answering the questions of a small select audience and the ability to speak with residents after over coffee renewing acquaintances and meeting one or two new residents and their opponents.

This year was always going to be difficult and the local election hustings had it been held in the school hall might have been possible based on the usual numbers with social distancing.

Originally we had considered that a meeting online for Haddenham Society members to put questions to candidates might have been possible.

Sadly what the committee is proposing is beyond the Haddenham Society mandate and whilst we would welcome the usual event what is proposed could give the impression the views and questions put by the Society were those of the broader community which is not always the case. This would be an injustice to other resident groups and the Parish Council.

We wish you well with your entertainment program and look forward to future events around the tried and tested model when we will be meeting in person once more facing the audience directly.
In accordance with your wishes for our candidates to state why they would not be attending the zoom meeting, we are happy for you to share this note in its entirety explaining our non-attendance.

Kind Regards

Evelyn Joy
Constituency Agent
Agent for the Bernwood Conservative Candidates.

5. The Committee of HVS has now considered the situation, which it greatly regrets. We do not understand the reference to the Society's "mandate" or why a virtual event, at which questions would be asked by members of the audience, would misrepresent the views of the "broader community" or be unjust to other groups or the Parish Council, who have not sought to organise an event. The reference to our "entertainment program" misrepresents our role in preserving and enhancing Haddenham. The Committee notes that there is no reference in the Agent's letter to our proposal for recording the meeting in a way that would overcome her earlier objections; she now appears to object to a virtual meeting of any kind.

6. Conclusion:

The Committee unanimously considers that the absence of the Conservative candidates should not deprive other candidates of their opportunity to present their views and to be questioned by electors. The Committee has therefore decided to hold the meeting on 21st April with all candidates who wish to attend and to record it and disseminate the recording with their permission. The Committee very much hopes that the Conservative candidates will reconsider their position and participate fully.

Roderick Floud
Chair, Haddenham Village Society.

The hustings will take place on Wednesday 21st April, 2021 commencing at 8pm.

The meeting is open to all members of the Village Society, who will be notified of the Zoom link. All other electors and residents are also very welcome to attend and should contact hvsmembership@gmail.com to receive the link.