Local government elections are imminent, which means your organisation may be thinking of holding a hustings. David Cook, WCVA Policy Officer, takes a look at how you can make sure your hustings runs without a hitch.
There are local government elections this May across Wales and the rest of the UK.
This may mean that your organisation is considering holding a hustings event. Hustings represent an opportunity for you and your members, supporters or local people to quiz election candidates on the subjects that matter to you and your community.
But there are a few things you should bear in mind.
- The candidates: You’ll need to find out who your local candidates are. The Returning Officer at your local council, or your local authority website may include these details.
- Partnership working: it might be worth considering if you can hold your hustings in partnership with other organisations, perhaps those with differing priorities to your own, in order to attract a wider range of attendees, thereby making it more attractive to electoral candidates.
- The chair: The chairperson for your event must not be associated with any particular political party to ensure you comply with Electoral Commission regulations – more on those later.
- Scheduling: Ensure there are no other similar events taking place in your area on the same date and time.
- Theming: It’s not imperative that your event has a theme, but doing so could help provide focus – perhaps you might want to look at how your area can tackle climate change, or the role of volunteers in your communities.
- Briefing: You may want to provide some additional information to candidates to help them prepare, especially if your hustings is a specific subject. Third Sector Support Wales has also produced some general information which you may want to use.
- Stewarding: It’s always useful to have stewards with microphones on hand at events like these.
- Format: Will speakers be asked to give opening statements? Will questions be taken in advance? Will there be a time limit applied to each question? Will candidates respond to each question in the same order? Remember, it’s good practice to rotate which speakers answers first, second and third to each question. These are all points worth considering well in advance of your event to ensure it runs smoothly.
- Publicity: Ensure your event is shared in advance on social media, within the local press, by fliers in community centres or doctor’s surgeries, and so on. Also ensure that photographs of the event are shared afterwards, again via social media and the local press.
The Electoral Commission monitors political campaigning activity during the run-up to elections. This means that your event must not be partial to any particular party, or for it to be interpreted as doing so.
When running a hustings, the best way to avoid accusations of bias is to ensure that all candidates in your area are invited to attend. However, if there are circumstances which prevent this, you must be able to give impartial reasons as to why some candidates were not invited, and audience members must be informed who was not invited and why. Finally, candidates invited must also represent a variety of views from different areas of the political spectrum and all must be given a fair chance to speak and respond to questions.
The Electoral Commission also monitor spending on campaigning during electoral periods. While a single hustings event is unlikely to breach these spending limits, if it is part of a package of campaigning your organisation may be doing during the run-up to the local government elections, it is vital you keep an eye on your overall costs. Please see the Electoral Commission guidance for more on this or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you do plan to organise a hustings event, we hope it goes well. Please contact email@example.com with any questions.