April 17th: New Mills Town Hall (High Peak constituency)
Candidates: Andrew Bingham (Con) current MP
Caitlin Bisknell (Lab) stood against Bingham in 2010
Charlotte Farrell (Green)
Ian Guiver (UKIP)
Stephen Worrall (LibDem)
The event was organised by the local council of churches. The format was very limited. Questions had been submitted prior to the event and nine had been selected. Each candidate had two minutes to respond. A list of topics, though not the actual questions, had been sent to the candidates prior to the event. This produced a passionless, mainly sterile ‘debate’. The event was chaired by an assistant curate from a local church who made it clear that dissent from the assembled motley (approx 120 citizens, predominantly middle-aged and older) would not be countenanced. What is it with vicars? A particularly pompous and officious one in Buxton suppressed comment at the last election. A woman with genuine grievance at the impact of austerity on the weak and vulnerable was told she would have to leave if she did not shut up.
As for the candidates, the Green and LibDem were weak and not MP material. Both appeared to be honest, decent people with the Green having good values.They lacked the spark necessary to tell truth to power. The UKIP guy was the most competent speaker and 70% of his comments were spot on as he attacked the political elite and corruption at the highest level. The remaining 30% of his remarks were offensive, objectionable and UKIP’s policies, if delivered, would make our society even more nasty and divided. The conservative made a big point about being a local boy who put the people of the High Peak first and had opposed the government on several occasions. Well, up to a point. Last July he had accepted a post of Parliamentary Private Secretary, the lowest rung on the government ladder. Bye Bye dissent. Hello yet another government lackey. He was defensive on several issues. The Labour candidate had been unimpressive in 2010. She was much much better this time round and injected some real feeling into her summing up when she condemned Bingham for supporting austerity measures including the bedroom tax at the same time as voting for the rich to get tax cuts.