How to run a Hustings / meet the candidates event in your local constituency
A ‘Hustings’ is defined by the Electoral Commission as “a meeting where election candidates or parties debate policies and answer questions from the audience”. Hustings take place in order to provide voters with an opportunity to hear the views of candidates and the policies of their parties in the run up to an Election, and to meet the candidates afterwards to make personal contact.
Who can run a Hustings?
Potentially, anyone! Hustings are usually held by community organisations who are unaffiliated to political parties.
Why organise a Hustings?
Hustings events can be a great opportunity to find out where candidates stand on the issues you care about. Not all candidates are great at answering correspondence from individual potential constituents, but when they are asked a question as part of a Hustings, not only must they be seen to answer, but any evasiveness or refusal to answer will be duly noted by the attendees. Even silence on an issue can tell voters something about a candidate.
Are there any legal implications to Hustings?
Not normally. The Electoral Commission recognises two sorts of Hustings: ‘Non-Selective Hustings’, and ‘Selective Hustings’. ‘Non-Selective Hustings’ involve inviting all candidates, and Selective Hustings involve inviting only some candidates.
If a Hustings is selective, the organising body can face spending limitations. If it is non-selective (as most are) then it is not subject to any limitations at all. No registration as a ‘non-party campaigner’ is necessary for a simple non-selective Hustings.
For more info, see the Electoral Commission website here.
How do I run a Hustings?
Running a Hustings is as simple as setting a date, booking a venue such as a Church Hall, inviting the candidates as guests, and then publicising the event once the candidates have confirmed.
Once an Election Campaign has begun, given the short length of such campaigns, it is necessary to organise Hustings as soon as possible if you want the event to go ahead.
In order to run a Hustings, then, here are the necessary steps:
1. Set a Sensible Date: Note whether other people have organised Hustings in your area already, so as not to organise in a way that will clash with what is already arranged.
2. Check Venue Suitability and Availability: Find a venue that has the appropriate features:
- Parking spaces and size (for the number of people expected or hoped to attend)
- Acoustics and sound facilities so that the audience can hear the candidates
- A raised platform on which the candidates might be seated
- Disability access
You may wish to consider cheapness or one to which you have easy access. Church Halls are commonly used for Hustings, as they are often good spaces in which such an occasion can take place.
Also check that your desired venue is available on the date you wish to use it for the Hustings.
3. Propose the Date and Hustings: Once the above is done, send an e-mail to your local candidates (their addresses can usually be found on their campaign websites or local party websites). If these are unavailable, ask Where Do They Stand? for help: firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Book the Venue: Once the candidates of the three main parties have confirmed (at least), book the venue you wish to use.
5. Secure a Moderator: A moderator or ‘chair’ will be needed for the meeting to make sure order is maintained. Someone who is competent at public speaking and organisation is a must. Additionally, securing someone who has experience at chairing public meetings, and is well known in the local community, is preferable.
6. Promote the Event in Local Media and Online: Send a press release to your local papers, TV and radio stations to tell them about your event. Only do this once the details are finalised. Make use of community notice boards, church websites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter. It is a good idea to send a press release after the event, even if local media don’t attend, along with key quotes from the candidates and photos.
7. Secure Necessary Equipment and Volunteers: You will need a long table for the candidates to sit at, along with the moderator. You will also need at least 2-3 microphones (one for candidates to the right of the moderator, one for the candidates to the left of the moderator, and one later for the audience). If the venue you will use does not have microphones and a sound system to go with it, you will need to secure these yourself.
You will also need volunteers for the following purposes:
- Stewards to greet guests and direct them to their seats, and hand out roving microphones.
- An operator for the sound system.
- Security so as to remove anyone who chooses to attend and becomes disruptive (to support this, it may be a good idea to alert your local police station that you are organising this event).
- To serve any refreshments you may plan to organise.
8. Organise an Order of Business for the Hustings Event: It is important that the event has an order of business. For a 2 hour Hustings (say, from 19:00-21:00), we recommend:
- Introduction from Moderator (5 minutes)
- Speeches from Candidates introducing themselves and their campaigns (7 minutes each)
- Set Questions on Major Issues such as Education, Health, Crime, Taxes, etc. (20 minutes)
- Audience Questions (1 hour)
9. Organise a Script for the Moderator to Follow: To make things easier for your moderator, give them short biographical descriptions of the candidates that they can use in their introduction, as well as rules to state to the audience that they should follow (e.g. no audience speeches, no interrupting candidate answers, etc.), and any health and safety announcements (e.g. location of fire exits).
10. Hold the Event: Once all the above is done, it is just a matter of turning up on the night, making sure all the practical details are sorted out: sufficient chairs laid out, the sound system working, the candidates table ready, etc. Then, enjoy the event!
If you have any questions, or need any assistance, feel free to contact Where Do They Stand? at: email@example.com