A pretty full house at Agapé Centre (South Belfast Methodist Centre) for South Belfast hustings.
An undercard…Sean Burns (some kinda Labour) Bob Stoker ((UKIP), Lily Kerr (Workers Party), Brigitte Anton (Labour in NI) Ben Manton (Conservative) and Billy Dickson (Ind Unionist)
Notables in audience….Alex Kane, Bill White (Lucid Talk), Jamie Bryson, David McCann (from Slugger O’Toole). Quintin Oliver showed up near the end so presumably his Stratagem minions were in the room.
William Cawley…BBC serial LetsGetAlongerist in the chair…or rather on his feet….
The Undercard have been allocated 45 minutes. The main players have been allocated 75 minutes.
Looking round the full room, I saw few recognisable rank and file from the main parties. This looks to be a night when the folks from smaller parties and their supporters will take centre stage.
First Question….Crawley asked
WHAT WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO CHANGE?
For Bob Stoker, it was about making things easier. Ms Anton wanted Politics to open up more (she mentioned a Civic Forum…. as the unelectable always do) Billy Dickson said two parties DUP and SF control everything. For Tory Boy Manton, it was about a strong private sector….rates cut etc
For Lily Kerr, Workers Party veteran, Stormont was not fit for purpose and she wanted Left-Right politics.
For Sean Burns it was an end to “dinosaur politics”. It was all about LGBT Rights and Same Sex Marriage and the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Norn Iron.
The first two questions were on Renewable Energy and Water Safety and not surprisingly everybody is in favour of Renewable Energy and nobody is against it. LIkewise everybody prefers safe water to unsafe water.
On Equal Marriage, only Mr Dickson was against it.
Questions were asked on the eighteen years since the Good Friday Agreement.
The consensus was that we had wasted the time since.
SHOULD EDUCATION (AT THIRD LEVEL) BE FREE?
While four members agreed with the premise, Bob Stoker said it should be free for “stem subjects”. Predictably the Tory thought that many 18 year olds did not get to go to Uni and it was unfair that they pay tax to subsidise those lucky enough to get to University. An audience member reminded Mr Manton that in a previous answer he had said this generation was shackling its children and grandchildren with debt and he was advocating shackling students with debt.
On the age of Voting, five panelists favoured reducing the voting age to sixteen. But the Torys curious response was “yes…in time”. He went on weakly to explain that there should be more education on how Politics works at school.
There was some discussion about cuts to benefit. Bob Stoker was particuarly effective on the issue, noting the savage sanctions imposed on some claimants.
Overall impressions. Lily Kerr did well in a 1950s Socialist kinda way. Some good one liners. Ms Anton and her LabourNI are a luxury item. As is Sean Burns and his Labour lot. More left wing show-boating about uniting leftists by forming yet another left-leaning Party.
BIlly Dickson seemed like a decent mainstream unionist, who doesnt seem to fit with Mike Nesbits UUP.
Bob Stoker is a patently decent man in an awful Party (UKIP).
And Ben Manton is a Tory…..nuff said.