What a show the Conservatives put on at Dame Alice Harpur last night ! The audience (of 700+?) queued for miles (almost literally) as the security checks were very tight, although they didn’t seem to mind whether you were carrying any guns or drugs, as long as your name was on the electoral register. Maybe identity cards would have helped…or,err…maybe not…
The surprise guest (Mr.Pickles) and the Chairman then did an impromptu double act on Conservative Party policies under David Cameron for an hour and a half with a style that was very “Eric and Ernie”, in fact Eric Pickles might even have won the nomination at the end if his name had been on the ballot paper. More than one stomach grumbled, and those grumbles moved vertically as the evening wore on…oh well, the best laid plans…democracy in action and all that…
But at last we were off, with a shortened time slot of 5 mins standard questioning from the Chair and 5 mins from the audience, and what fun was had seeing how the prospective mayoral candidates dealt with one standard question in particular: “Three tier or Two tier”?
And these were our impressions of their answers:
Parvez Akhtar: We need to look at it carefully and consider all the evidence. Oh alright, if you insist on a straight answer, I tend to support the three tier side….(wow, a considered but straight answer. How impressive !)
Tom Wootton: I’m a traditionalist. Three tier through and through…(good man)
Nicky Attenborough: How could I possibly comment when the official report hasn’t been published? I don’t know anything about this yet. Once I am elected, I’ll tell you what I think…(methinks she has been well trained by the bureaucrats in Borough Hall – going native they called it in Yes Minister)
Jason Reddy: If the finance is there, then we’ll be able to make a decision…(well, that one’s easy then Jason, because the money isn’t there for the lower-primary change, even if we do get £340M for secondary schools)…and what decision do you personally support? (not that it matters much now…)
And the result? Parvez by a country mile with over 50% of the votes in the first round. There were then quite a few grumbles from the party faithful about procedure and the fact their selection procedure had been “hijacked” by outsiders (ie real and not necessarily Tory voters willing to give up an evening of their time), but to be honest, Parvez was by far the best candidate overall.
The next task of course will be to ensure that the schools debate becomes the main focus of this Mayoral campaign. If any of the other candidates try the Nicky Attenborough approach (she was heckled and not by SMS it must be said), they may get laughed at openly….by the electorate on polling day.