The fourth East Lothian hustings was organised by the Association of Churches in North Berwick and very well hosted by the Abbey Church, with Dunbar’s Rev Lawrence Twaddle in the chair. In keeping with last year’s success, again 80 people showed up and peppered the four candidates with substantial questions. The Tory held his ground but tended to talk entirely nationally, making few local references. He spoke too fast, not close enough to the mike, so he may not have been clearly heard.
The Lib-Dem, while exhibiting disarming sincerity, drifted between disclaiming ‘not be a professional politician’ and quoting policies from a categorised coloured cheat sheet her party had thoughtfully provided. That left the Gray Man and me to duke it out but the format allowed little real confrontation; we wound up mostly agreeing with each other—on the need for jobs, about Scottish Enterprise’s poor performance, on key role of education.
All four performed competently and the audience was politely attentive for the 90 minutes. But I felt I edged it and would have won any straw vote of the audience —a total turnout by the local Labour branch notwithstanding. This is not because I was local or even the top debater but because, whereas the two MSPs kept mouthing party lines from a national perspective (as if this were FMQs) I kept it local, hammering at issues that I have long believed mattered to East Lothian.
They seemed to have both forgotten that this was not just an opportunity to communicate with the media; it was a job interview for someone who could best listen to, understand and then powerfully articulate the hopes and fears of those in the room. I hope my enthusiasm for that job came across.