Transport, Housing and Equality dominate Vauxhall election hustings held at Oval Farmer’s Market

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Things that we now know following the Vauxhall hustings that took place at the Oval Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning…

Holding a hustings combined with buying your artisan bread is a brilliant idea

Democracy in Vauxhall is ACE. And so is the good Vicar of St. Mark’s, Steve Coulson. We witnessed nine candidates all sharing the stage together, like a Vauxhall tribute to We Are the World.

Taking the top spot with the mic was Vicar Steve, rattling through a brisk and breezy outdoors hustings and making sure that every candidate had a fair chance.

The location was significant – this is where the Kennington gallows once stood. It was more about artisan bread on Saturday morning at the Oval. It was an inspired idea to combine the event with the popular Farmer’s Market. A crowd of around 300 folk listened to the politicians making their pitch.

As Kate Hoey was correct to call, Vauxhall is one of only ten constituencies in the whole country where ten candidates are standing. Allowing Dain Jensen of the Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol party to share a platform with Kate Hoey can only be good for local democracy.

The full runners and riders for the Vauxhall constituency are as follows:

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Ten candidates, nine speeches and one AWOL UKIP politician

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We missed the opening address by Tory James Bellis. This wasn’t deliberate, but it’s an unfortunate consequence of being the candidate ranked highest on the A-Z register.

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We fumbled around a bit whilst Mark Chapman of the Pirate Party was putting together his pitch. We missed out on logging all of the details, but we did catch a recording of the speech.

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Waleed Ghani had his potential comedy candidate pigeon hole stolen by Dain and his Cannabis beliefs. Both proved to be incredibly popular candidates, rising above any stereotypes and putting across their points well.

Waleed claimed that central government cuts are “economically wrong.” GLADSTONE WOULD DISAGREE, came back the heckle.

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Simon Hardy of Left Unity spoke about “sweet heart deals” between big business and government, plus also the “rotten closures of libraries by Lambeth Labour.” We’re not sure which one annoys us the most.

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Green Gulnar Hasnain gave a good account of herself during the introductions. She argued that we have the “opportunity to send a message in Vauxhall.” Which is slightly coded talk for I can’t win here, but we can dent away at the LibDems and Tories. Or possibly even beat them. You go, girl.

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Labour’s Kate Hoey is not always Labour’s Kate Hoey. Today was no different. Her introduction highlighted housing as being the main issue. A top band Council Tax for the Vauxhall and Nine Elms development was one the messages.

I am not tribal” added Kate. “Just because it is a Labour council doesn’t always mean it is right.”

Ouch.

Um, you go girl, etc.

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LibDem Adrian Hyyrylain-Trett has a tough job on his hands. Whatever is left of the local Lambeth LibDem party will now be walking the mean streets of Bermondsey and Old Southwark over the next few days to try and save Simon Hughes.

I don’t agree with the LibDem education policy” said Adrian.

We’re not entirely sure what this is right now…

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And then we had Dain and his Cannabis is Safer than Alcohol party. He was far from a loved up toker taking to the stage. Dain was ACE. Right from the introductions he managed to deal with a Tory heckler, keeping his message that drug use is a social issue.

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Danny Lambert of the Socialist Party should be used to this. He is a seasoned election fighter, each time proclaiming that he doesn’t want to win. Which is a bit of a waste of a £500 deposit, depending on your view about the real social value of hard currency.

Bottom of the candidate sheet – purely in an alphabetical sense you understand – was the politician with the absolutely ACE name: Ace NNorom of UKIP. Ace was nowhere to be seen in Vauxhall. This may have something to do with having a Croydon address.

The future of Vauxhall Bus Station is not safe under Lambeth Labour

Transport remains a key issue in Vauxhall. More to the point, TfL and Lambeth Council’s combined policy to remove the spectacular Vauxhall Bus Station and replace it with some manufactured ’boutique’ High Street has seen plenty of local opposition.

Mark Chapman was keen to see a Dutch style cycling system being put in place where the gyratory currently stands. Waleed Ghani wanted a “more ambitious CS5.” Simon Hardy meanwhile looked at the political mechanisms, rather than the plans. He claimed that Lambeth Council isn’t being held to account. This became a familiar theme throughout the morning.

Gulnar Hasnain wants to clean up buses (not literally) and to make the area safer for pedestrians. Kate Hoey made it quite clear where stands: “We must make sure that the Bus Station is preserved.” Kate Hoey doesn’t always agree with her Lambeth Labour Comrades…

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett was no great fan of Lambeth Council either: “We have consultations in Lambeth but Lambeth Labour ignores them.” This was a similar message from James Bellis.

Culture + Consultation = cuts

A question framed on the future of Kennington Park was opened up to consider the wider implications of Cllr Jane Edbrooke’s mean Cultural Consultation proposals. It actually made sense to ask the question in isolation; it would have made sense for Cllr Edbrooke to consult in isolation over parks, sport, libraries and entertainment, rather than lumping them all together.

Simon Hardy called the consultation a “sham.” We could have saved ourselves a lot of time by just cutting and pasting this phrase and publishing it for every question that was asked.

Gulnar Husnain was worried that the Cultural Consultation is simply an exercise to sneak in the Lambeth Labour cuts. Kate Hoey kept to the question and vowed to carry on working with the Friends of Kennington Park. We feel that the Friends will need even more friends, once the responsibility of park management is dumped on them by Cllr Edbrooke.

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett repeated the “sham” line. Cannabis Dain claimed that he could get the Council £50m overnight. Which was interesting…

James Bellis not surprisingly bigged up the Lambeth Tory’s alternative budget. It was big on cuts to staff, with investment to frontline services. Mark Chapman correctly identified the folly of having to find your way through 22 chunky documents if you want to take the consultation seriously.

We take it VERY seriously at Brixton Buzz.

Protecting Vauxhall’s diverse communities led to some passionate answers

Vauxhall remains a diverse area – and a huge hurrah for that. The next question looked at supporting the LGBT community, and in particular saving the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Simon Hardy stated that “everything that is brilliant in Lambeth is being shut down by Lambeth Labour.” Quite a sweeping statement, but it is strange that the cultural highlights in the borough are being targeted with the cuts.

Gulnar Husnain is keen to use education to help support diverse communities. Kate Hoey called for cross-party support. This is possible – we were surprised but pleased to see this happening over the short-life tenancies.

James Bellis pointed out that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern is currently listed as an Asset of Community Value, one of the key Conservative Localism policies. The effectiveness of Right to Bid however is patchy.

Mark Chapman explained how the Pirate Party manifesto is crowd-sourced. There are many ideas based around equality that have been put forward.

Education and unemployment – how to improve one and reduce the other in Vauxhall

The connection between education, ethnic minorities and unemployment came up next. Kate Hoey mentioned the HUGE improvements that have been made across most schools in the borough over recent years.

Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett was left feeling a little awkward over his party’s tuition fees cock up. James Bellis also came slightly unstuck when he was heckled over his party’s support for Free Schools. He claimed that Lambeth Council tried to block a Free School from opening in Kennington.

Meanwhile the Whig Party policy on youth unemployment was interesting – remove all NI contributions for young people. Simon Hardy argued to reduce the working week to 35 hours and to pay a minimum wage of £10 an hour – which didn’t really answer the question.

Time is tight, and so are answers

The problem with democracy working so well in Vauxhall is that having a fair hustings for nine candidates can take up all morning. Vicar Steve was keen to give everyone an equal say. This meant though that the questions were limited. One word answers were asked for as the final 15 minutes of the Farmer’s Market hustings approached.

Would you support an EU referendum?

ABSOLUTELY YES” said Kate Hoey.

Like we said – Kate isn’t your average Labour party MP.

What are your religious beliefs?

Gulnar Husnain: “I don’t think faith should come into politics.”

How would you make housing more affordable?

Cannabis Dain: “As you know, we are a single policy party…

Aye.

James Bellis went with the “supply and demand” argument of the free market.

‘cos that worked out well in Lambeth, didn’t it?

Heckles ahoy.

Mark Chapman was the first candidate to mention Cressingham Gardens, saying that he would fight to save it. Sadly it’s not in his would-be constituency, but it was a point worth making.

Gulnar Husnain wants to redefine what is meant by “affordable housing.”, just as the Shadow of St George’s Tower was just starting to appear across this patch of South London.

Kate Hoey raised her game and her voice: “If we want to build homes in Lambeth we don’t do it by bulldozing estates. I WILL FIGHT IT TOOTH AND NAIL.” Much of the planned ‘estate regeneration’ planned by Lambeth Council is due to be rolled out in Kate’s Vauxhall patch.

On the question of leadership, Danny Lambert said: “I don’t want to be your MP. I don’t trust leaders. Can you name a good one?

The reply of “Lenin” came back from the floor. This wasn’t a heckle but a genuinely serious response.

Summing up then followed. Kate Hoey surprised everyone again by stating that she has re-thought her position and is in favour of proportional representation. This is unlikely to shift her from Westminster if implemented, but it could make the Vauxhall seat a lot more interesting.

This was a wonderful way in which to spend a Saturday morning whilst buying some ethically sourced sausage sarnies. The good Vicar Steve and his volunteer team has to be congratulate for managing such a smooth hustings.

The outcome of the Vauxhall election is unlikely to change, but many different voices were able to be heard.

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