CARE calls for church-based hustings
In the run-up to the forthcoming Scottish Elections in May this year (2011), a new CARE report says that church-based hustings are still as important as ever.
NEW research published today by Christian social policy charity CARE demonstrates the key role played by churches in facilitating the democratic process through the provision of hustings during the 2010 General Election.
Published a week after CARE launched its new election website for the 2011 devolved elections in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – www.makethecrosscount2011.net – it does not just look back but also looks forward to the elections in May this year.
Gareth Davies, CARE’s Development Officer commented, ‘In the run up to the 2010 election we wrote to churches across the UK encouraging them to hold hustings and were completely blown away by the response. 293 hustings were registered on our makethecrosscount2010 website making it - as far as we are aware - the largest single source of hustings in the UK General Election.
The provision of hustings is a great way in which the church can serve its community, emphasising to candidates the importance of the Christian constituency and Christian policy priorities. Holding hustings also provides a great way for local residents to get to know the candidates, one of whom will become the elected representative. After the election churches can continue to engage from the position of having an established relationship and point of contact.’
The findings of today’s report, written by David Binder, were based on questionnaires sent out to the 293 hustings organisers. Churches from a diverse number of denominations and from right across the UK were represented and, on the whole, the results make for very encouraging reading. They illustrate very clearly the hugely significant role church-based hustings play in facilitating democracy in the UK.
The report confirms that, on average, 136 people attended each of the 293 hustings. If this figure is projected across all 293 hustings it means that nearly 40,000 people - both Christian and non-Christian - attended a church run hustings during the 2010 general election campaign. This is very encouraging and demonstrates that high numbers of people view hustings as important and relevant.
CARE’s findings also demonstrates that Christians and those who attended hustings are interested and concerned about a whole variety of political and social issues. These findings are particularly interesting in that they dispel the myth that all Christian’s are only concerned about the same ‘typical’ issues. There was a wide variety of subjects of interest – indeed, as the report shows, issues around the economy proved to be the most popular topic of discussion – illustrating that hustings can play a key role in facilitating debate on diverse and relevant issues of real interest to the Christian and non Christian public.
Nola Leach CARE’s chief executive concluded, ‘We are delighted by the findings of this report. We hope that it will motivate people to run hustings once again in the context of this year’s elections which is why we are today releasing new hustings guides for Northern Ireland and Wales on our new 2011 election website, If you live in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales then why not encourage your church to host a hustings in your constituency. They are great fun and provide a really practical way of making a Christian difference at election time. If candidates turn up at a packed church hall it sends the important message that the church is here and Christian values must be taken seriously.’
In the run up to the 2010 General Election CARE wrote to hundreds of church leaders to encourage them to hold hustings and took on two extra members of staff to assist. It is important to be clear, however, that whilst CARE provided advice and resources, the org not actually run the hustings. This task was undertaken by the local church.
A pre-election Hustings Meeting is being held in the King's Factory, Inverness.