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Why Confelicity are MIA at the Southend West and Leigh Hustings tonight

As I write this, the Southend West and Leigh hustings would be starting soon. I should be there. I should be experiencing a lot of nerves and excitement while in hope of saying what I want to say in the right way. Instead, I will be driving home after a long day at work penning this blog.

I was informed by the organisers of the hustings that I would not be invited to the Q&A section - essentially the hustings. Instead, I would have a 1 minute opening statement and then asked to leave the stage.

Time was the overriding factor according to the organisers. With 10 candidates, they said it would be too ‘unwieldy’ and so five of the lesser known candidates and parties would have to get the chop.

For us, it was a kick in the teeth. Honestly, as a party we work hard. We hold manifesto meetings once a month and vote on matters of the day. We have to vote unanimously so it takes time and tough talk. It’s a great process in the end because the policies are more robust and we also know a lot of downsides of the argument. We believe in our manifesto. You can see it is written by Southend residents because it is so local. There is so much more to debate and I actually cannot wait to continue this process after the election. But the point being, we take great care with our policy and party.

You won’t believe how great our members are. From all walks of life in all professions, they love Southend and they love seeing if they can make a difference. Total passion and highly intelligent. Our members range from former Green to Reform because we vote issue by issue - we do not belong to any wing. And the great thing is the whole of Southend are invited.

As a member, you get a voice, a vote and the power of veto. This is what we mean when we say we are a local party for the national stage. It is literally the voice of Southend for the House of Commons!

And yet, I find it absurd that the only Southend party in the election hasn’t been invited to participate fully at a Southend hustings.

We were told by the organisers they already had a broad line of views by including Tory, Labour, Lib Dem, Green and Reform, but I do not recall any party devoted to Southend and to locally led representation.

As your Southend MPs, both Lee Clark (in Southend East and Rochford) and myself, would have been obliged to hold monthly meetings about bills going through parliament. We would have to discuss, debate and dissect each item in partnership with our members who would take a vote. What’s even better is that our meetings are public and all Southend residents regardless of party are invited to take part. It will be the most democratic and engaging political process we have ever seen (or least one that I know of!).

Some may be confused by our system, but most people agree about most things most of the time. When we don’t, Lee and I would still be empowered to make our decisions but we would do so with a complete understanding of how Southend feels.

This is unique and should have been on show tonight.

The optics for Confelicity are not necessarily good. Some may argue that even 1 minute is better than nothing and we should have been pleased to accept any opportunities that come our way. The issue our members had was that because our system is so unwaveringly democratic, the consensus was our presence would be condoning what is a wholly undemocratic hustings.

Almost all of me wants to be at the hustings tonight. Myself and my Confelicity friends tried everything we could but to no avail.

The organisers tried to compromise, but could not guarantee anything.

I spoke to the other candidates and they graciously and commendably agreed we should be allowed to speak. Alas, to no avail.

From an outside perspective it could be perceived as arrogance and petulance that we are not there tonight. Maybe it is and we are just not aware of ourselves! We may not be doing us any great favours by boycotting the event because there is a risk we could be seen as this or worse. However, there is a time for principles, and I am proud of our party to have shown such strength in our devotion to democracy.

Despite all this I do want to wish all the candidates and parties well and to the organisers too. There has been mention of potential unrest and security issues, but I can assure everyone that this would never come from our end. Or if it did, we would address it with the upmost seriousness. Our party is founded on respectful free speech, not aggression and violence.

Good luck to all and I look forward to the last few weeks on the campaign trail, starting with the SEND hustings on Thursday morning.

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