Hustings - important information

Once the date for a General Election has been set there will be a period of campaining between the dissolution of parliament (the end of paliament) and polling day.

Campaigning by charities during elections and referendums is governed by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 and the Charity Commission has published guidance on Charities, Elections and Referendums.

Hustings

Local regulated selective hustings: In principle, those venues holding a regulated hustings should invite every political party or independent candidate. In practice, a venue can decide not to invite particular candidates, but if it does, it must have a clear objective reason which it is prepared to make public and, if necessary, defend. Possible reasons are as follows:

  • that the individuals not invited are likely to obtain very few votes;
  • that those invited are the candidates most likely to win in the constituency;
  • that there are a very large number of candidates and it is impracticable to invite all of them;
  • that a particular candidate or candidates present a public order risk.

Disagreement with the political views of one or other of the parties or candidates is not sufficient reason not to invite them to the hustings.

If you do not invite every political party or independent candidate and you cannot demonstrate what the Electoral Commission judges to be “an objective reason for not doing so”, your event may count as a donation to towards those parties or candidates who were invited. If the cost is above £50 it would then need to be recorded by the invited candidates as a political donation – and you would then have fallen foul of charity law because it is axiomatic that charities may not make political donations.

Why hold a hustings event?

The pupose of the hustings event is to help voters make informed, educated decisions. It is important it is seen as neutral, must not be a platform for a particular view. They provide an opportuntiy for local people to raise questions for the benefit for the whole community.

Among the challenges of arranging a hustings event are:

  • making sure the arragements are legal and ensure a balanced and well informed discussion
  • finding the right chair person who can handle and direct a complex meeting impartially
  • making sure that all or at least the required range of candidates attend the hustings
  • ensuring the comfort and safety of those attending

Setting the date

Start with the sitting MP who plans to stand again. Contact their agent and find a suitable date then invite all other candidates. Anticipate the best time and venue for your community.

Invite all the candidates

It is usual to invite all those standing for election.

Public

Hustings should be for everyone in the community and so publicise the event widely and make sure everyone knows they are welcome.

Prepare questions

Many hustings invite people to submit questions beforehand, then organisers go through and select a small number that represent the major interests shown in the bulk of the questions. In the past in the Diocese of Leeds we have invited people to come early to the meeting and write down their questions. This is often appreciated by people who are less confident.

The role of the chair

The Chair should make sure everyone understands that this event is not lobbying event. To ensure balance the chair might give a specific amount of time for each candidate to reply. Recruit a runner and timekeeper to assist the chair in gathering and ordering the questions and keeping an eye on the clock. They can signal when time is up for a question or response.

And finally

Offer the candidates 2 mins each in reverse order to say what they want before closing.