Holding a hustings event in your local area will enable you and members of your community to quiz parliamentary candidates on their approach to foreign policy. Such events are an effective way of raising awareness not only of the role the UK could and should play on the world stage, but also of the work undertaken by the UN and by UNA-UK.
Here are a few tips for getting organised:
- Decide on a title and theme – for example, ‘UK foreign policy and the UN’ or ‘Britain’s role on the world stage’.
- Avoid a scheduling clash – check if any other hustings are being held in the constituency. Contact the campaign offices of political parties for this information.
- Consider partners – working with youth groups, faith groups or branches of NGOs such as Amnesty, Oxfam and Friends of the Earth could bring your event to many more people.
- Book a venue – factors to consider include: cost, location, capacity and disability access. A public address system and roving microphones may also be helpful.
- Select a chairperson – the chairperson must not be identified with any particular political party. It is also vital that they are able to chair the meeting effectively, ensuring speakers respect time limits and focus on the questions asked.
- Don’t go empty-handed – make sure you have plenty of UNA-UK supporter cards to ensure you can stay in touch with attendees (contact Anneka Patel on firstname.lastname@example.org for more copies).
- An attendance list on which people can give their name and email address could also help you find out who in your community is interested in events like this. Please share these with UNA-UK following the event so that we can keep them up to date with our work.
- Get some help – it can be useful to have a couple of stewards on standby during the meeting to offer any assistance required, such as passing around microphones.
Invite the candidates
Firstly, find out who the candidates in your constituency are. You will find full listings on each of the party websites. The Returning Officer of your local council should have details of all candidates once nominations have closed.
Who to invite
UNA-UK is a strictly non-party political organisation and local UNAs must respect this policy. Local UNAs must therefore ensure that hustings events are non-selective.
The Electoral Commission considers a hustings to be non-selective if:
- All candidates known to be standing in your constituency are invited to attend. This is by far the simplest and most straightforward way to ensure your hustings is non-selective.
- In certain circumstances, it may not be appropriate for all candidates to be invited. If this is the case, organisers should be able to give impartial reasons, including to the candidates or parties, why particular candidates or parties have not been invited. Impartial reasons include:
- Local prominence of some parties or candidates over others.
- The number of elected representatives at local or national level.
- Resources and other practicalities constraining numbers of invitees.
- Security concerns.
- Candidates or parties invited represent a reasonable variety of views, from different parts of the political spectrum.
- Every speaker is given a fair chance to answer questions and, where appropriate, a reasonable opportunity to respond to points made against them.
- The audience is informed at the meeting of candidates or parties standing who were invited but weren’t able to attend, and who were not invited for the impartial reasons listed above.
We strongly recommend reading the Electoral Commission’s advice on this issue, or contacting them for information using the following details:
- England: 020 7271 0500 or email@example.com
- Scotland: 0333 103 1928 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Wales: 0333 103 1929 or email@example.com
- Northern Ireland: 0333 103 1928 or firstname.lastname@example.org
It is important to decide the format of the meeting in advance to ensure the event is run fairly and smoothly. Think about how you will handle questions posed to candidates by members of the public. Here are some points to consider:
- Do you want to invite each speaker to give a short opening statement? Will you allow all speakers a quick-fire ‘right of reply’ afterwards?
- How will questions be organised? You may wish attendees to submit questions in writing before the meeting, or you may prefer a more relaxed format and take questions from the floor on the day.
- If questions are submitted in advance, will you group the questions according to topic?
- If questions are taken from the floor, will you decide the first question in advance to get the ball rolling?
- Will you apply a time limit to each question, and to each speaker? How will you time each contribution?
- Will you ask candidates to respond in the same order for every question? If not, ensure you rotate the order fairly.
- How will you integrate the points in UNA-UK’s manifesto into the Q&A session? Will you send all speakers a copy in advance?
Whatever you decide, candidates should be briefed beforehand and the format should be explained clearly to the audience. You should also ensure that your hustings event complies with the Electoral Commission’s good practice recommendations (http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/105946...).
A list of suggestions can be found in part 1 of this guide. More detailed UNA-UK policy information is available in our latest report ‘Keeping Britain Global’. However, we encourage you to focus on issues that will resonate in your community.
Remember that while candidates can be expected to have a broad understanding of international issues, elections are usually fought on domestic policy. It is unrealistic to expect them to have detailed knowledge of complex UN procedures. If a candidate does not directly answer the question, do not be afraid to ask for clarification. If you are still unsatisfied, ask the candidate if he or she would be willing to send you a written response after the meeting.
Aim to publicise the meeting as widely and as early as possible to ensure the highest possible attendance. Make posters and flyers in advance, and draw up a list of all the public places where details of the hustings can be advertised. In your correspondence with confirmed candidates you might like to ask them to publicise it themselves through their campaign office.
Here are some ideas for how to pull in the crowds:
- Create flyers – hand these out in your town or city during busy periods.
- Contact your local media – get in touch with local newspapers and radio stations, giving them a short and snappy explanation of the event. Be sure to mention names of confirmed candidates and include contact details, should they require further information.
- Use social media – set up a Facebook event and invite all your contacts, providing regular updates on the event page to ensure maximum visibility of the hustings. You could also tweet candidates you have invited, encouraging them to retweet the message to their followers.
- List your event on UNA-UK’s website – submit your event for inclusion on UNA-UK’s events calendar (www.una.org.uk/add-event).
There is a lot more guidance on publicising local UNA events on our dedicated webpage, www.una.org.uk/local.
Make sure you take some good pictures of your event, featuring the various candidates who attended, and share them on social media and with your local newspaper.
Share the outcomes and experience of the event with the rest of the world by submitting a members’ news article (www.una.org.uk/add-branch-news).
If a candidate made a verbal commitment to a particular issue then let us know. This will enable us to remind them of their promises, should they be elected.