Swanage election hustings goes ahead without key player

Most candidates standing for South Dorset in the 2024 General Election did show up to the event in Swanage to help residents decide who to vote for, however Richard Drax who’s been the local Conservative MP since 2010 did not attend.

Invites to the hustings, which took place from 8 pm on Wednesday 26th June 2024 at The Emmanuel Baptist Church in Victoria Avenue, were extended to all of the eight candidates, with six of them accepting.

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Hustings candidates for Dorset South in the UK General Election 2024

There was a good attendance in the audience from local residents

Six candidates showed up

The other prospective parliamentary candidate not to put in an appearance was the Reform UK candidate Morgan Young who lives in Derbyshire.

Those who did come and answer questions were:

  • Matt Bell – Liberal Democrats
  • Catherine Bennett – Green Party
  • Lloyd Hatton – Labour Party
  • Giovanna Lewis – Independent (Socialist)
  • Rosie Morrell – Independent (Everyone is God)
  • Joy Wilson – Independent (Vote Life)

Not attending:

  • Richard Drax – The Conservative Party
  • Morgan Tara Young – Reform UK
Hustings candidates for Dorset South in the UK General Election 2024

Left to right: Lloyd Hatton – Labour Party, Joy Wilson – independent (Vote Life), Giovanna Lewis – independent (Socialist), Catherine Bennett – Green Party, Matt Bell – Liberal Democrat, and Rosie Morrell – independent (Everyone is God)

Range of subjects discussed

Questions were put to the panel by the chair of the event Matthew Thom and the vicar of Swanage’s All Saints church Jo Levasier, on behalf of the local residents who had submitted their questions.

Subjects raised were on housing, healthcare and the NHS, policing, reducing poverty, life chances for young people, climate change and biodiversity, and Brexit and the EU.

One area not discussed was the Israeli and Palestinian conflict, which was raised by independent socialist candidate Giovanna Lewis in her closing statement. Matt Bell also said he would have welcomed a question on that subject. However not all subjects could be covered in the time available.

Hustings at Emmanuel Baptist Church for Dorset South in the UK General Election 2024

The hustings didn’t finish until 10 pm

Weymouth and Portland often mentioned

Neither was there a question specifically about Swanage, which would have tested the candidates’ local knowledge. With two candidates from Portland and two from Weymouth, there were quite a lot of mentions about those two areas.

However, for voters in Swanage, the candidates may as well have been talking about the Outer Hebrides as the audience was clearly not very interested in Weymouth and Portland issues on the other side of the South Dorset constituency.

The Labour candidate Lloyd Hatton, despite growing up in Weymouth and recently living in London, had clearly done his homework on Swanage, speaking accurately and passionately about the issues faced by Swanage hospital and the replacement of Swanage police station with a part time police desk in the town hall.

Matt Bell representing the Liberal Democrats gave an assured performance, which was not surprising for a teacher probably experienced in dealing with a much more unruly crowd. He has also honed his public speaking skills over a number of years as a local councillor.

The Green Party candidate Catherine Bennett was clear on the issues of climate change. She said she came from a family who got stuck in when they saw the need. Catherine had campaigned against the incinerator at Portland and set up a community larder in Portland.

One of the independent candidates Joy Wilson was a pro life campaigner and answered every question by expressing her anti-abortion stance, which the audience started to grow tired of towards the end of the evening, even giving her a few polite boos.

Self proclaimed sex worker and sex therapist Rosie Morrell said she wanted to become the UK’s first ever sex worker MP. She spoke about her experience of growing up in a family with little money, a lack of housing security and limited opportunities.

Hustings at Emmanuel Baptist Church for Dorset South in the UK General Election 2024

The Emmanuel Baptist Church is a well equipped and welcoming venue

Lacked spark

The evening missed the spark of the hustings in 2019 without the Conservative candidate Richard Drax to provide opposing views to the other candidates. Often the candidates broadly agreed with each other, excluding some of the pro life campaigner’s more emotive claims.

The absence of Richard Drax also denied the media the opportunity of a headline incorporating the words, ‘Tory MP’ and ‘sex worker’.

Those who do wish to hear what Richard Drax has to say, can attend a question and answer event from 6.30 pm to 8 pm at the Swanage Conservative Club, 27 Kings Road West on Thursday 27th June 2024. He says everyone is welcome to come along.

The UK General Election is on Thursday 4th July 2024 and voters are reminded to bring along photo ID to their polling station between 7 am and 10 pm in order to vote.

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