What is likely to be the last of the Brent North constituency hustings was held at St George's Parish Hall in Sudbury yesterday evening.
There have been very few hustings in Brent North where Barry Gardiner is the Labour incumbent. Concerned at the lack of opportunity for local residents to hear from candidates (in comparison with the 21 hustings in Hampstead and Kilburn), Luke Parker the Conservative candidate asked St George's Roman Catholic Church if they would be willing to hold a hustings where all the candidates could be heard.
The Church agreed but Barry Gardiner refused to attend. In a letter read out last night he declined the invitation because he claimed the hustings had been organised by the Conservatives and that the chairing would not be neutral. This was not very popular with some of the audience.
The event went ahead with Luke Parker, Paul Lorber (Lib Dem), Scott Bartle (Green) and Elcena Jeffers (Independent) . The chairing was minimal, amounting to little more than a welcome, thank you and choosing questioners from raised arms in the audience.
I have attended many hustings over the last few weeks and I can honestly say that this was refreshingly open and honest. It was more of a conversation than a debate with different views set out and listened to with respect. Free of pre-arranged questions (and pre-arranged answers) the result enabled ideas to be explored and candidates to speak from their personal experience, even setting out where they disagreed with their own party policy.
One questioner asked which of Barry Gardiner's actions as an MP had won candidates' approval and which they disagreed with.
It was a pity that Gardiner was not there to respond.