In Leadership hustings: why be enslaved by conformity? I bemoaned the restrictive and unimaginative format laid down for official hustings meetings during the Liberal Democrat leadership contest:
If you’ve been to a fair number of hustings, the limitations of the format rapidly become apparent. The standard question and answer show is that a person asks a question about something that’s really important to them, and the candidates – after that person’s vote – both agree that they’re right to say it’s important and they’d do something about it.
As a test of oratorical ability, that works. But it also means the clichéd answers and grand promises come easily. Rigorous testing out of whether candidates can really deliver what they promise? That’s the rarity, and that’s particularly a problem where the contest is more about who is best able to deliver than between competing visions of what to deliver.
Part of the problem is the understandable desire to let as many people as possible ask questions. The downside is that the dearth of follow-up questions – or candidates cross-questioning each other – means you rarely get a point pursued in a way that sheds real light on something.
Social media can, and often is, different in that respect, as Tim Farron in particular with his extensive engagement on Facebook with party members is showing in this contest.
Take this public exchange on Facebook – and note how the follow up exchanges make for something that is more interesting and more informative than if it had been a truncated ‘one question and you’re done’ format.
So if you’re organising one of the many hustings to come, why not leave conformity to one side and try a different format for a change?