This coming week of the campaign will see a number of what are known as hustings meetings. Denise Burke, our candidate will be appearing alongside her Conservative, LibDem, Ukip and Green opponents in the major towns (by North Norfolk standards) of Wells, Holt and Cromer. These meetings are organised by local voluntary groups and are welcome enhancements to the democratic process. We have ample confidence in Denise’s ability to outshine these opponents. She projects well and is abler than them.
We will however be organising no public meetings. There is simply no demand for them – no one would come. Denise’s time is better spent on the doorstep. The demise of the open public meeting marks a significant change from the elections of the 1970s and 80s when I was a candidate. It was seen as obligatory to organise a whole series of meetings despite the fact that the only people who attend were your supporters, the odd person who came along to show how much they knew, and the occasional groups of opponents. Male Young Conservatives were a ghastly lot; they are the reason why I don’t enjoy Rugby at Twickenham.
Significant special interest group meetings were held during the 1983 General Election in Nottingham but most were organised by and for the minority ethnic groups – especially the Asian voters who had originated from the Punjab. The courtesy of the hosts made these events perhaps the most enjoyable part of the campaign. The pattern for the meetings was that a Chairman from the community would introduce the candidate and then, before calling on me, would call on another community member to speak in support. This supporting speaker would start by speaking in English but, after a few sentences, invariably say ‘with great respect to the candidate I can best make my political points in my own native language’.
At one of these meetings a non-Asian native Nottingham elector had heard in advance that the candidate was appearing at the local hall and, not realising that it was intended for a special group, had come along to listen. Far from being embarrassed he appeared to enjoy the experience and I noticed that he joined in the applause that greeted every important political point made in Punjabi and even laughed along with the jokes.