With just hours left in a tortuous general election campaign, Redwood attended the Evening Standard general election hustings in Westminster on Tuesday, 6 May.
The evening, hosted by politician-turned-journalist George Osborne, and chaired by ITV News political editor Robert Peston, featured candidates vying for seats across London.
Greg Hands, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, represented the Conservatives; Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry was a late replacement for Diane Abbott, for Labour; Sir Vince Cable, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills represented the Liberal Democrats; former London Mayoral candidate Sian Berry spoke for the Green Party. There was no representative for UKIP, whether by accident or design. With Brexit a key area of concern nationally and locally, their absence was peculiar.
The main topics discussed were predictable, after weeks of campaigning: security, Brexit, housing and tuition fees.
Continuing the type of exchange that has defined the campaign, the Conservative and Labour candidates clashed on each issue in an increasingly heated series of interactions. Mr Cable and Ms Berry calmly and clearly talked through the key points of their respective manifestos. They were perhaps helped by the lack of pressure on their parties, as attention has focused on the two parties that seem set to claim a high proportion of the popular vote.
The Conservatives’ Greg Hands faced vociferous heckling from the audience, and at times looked uncomfortable and anxious to get his point across. Both he and Vince Cable frequently directed their comments at Mr. Osborne, who was sitting in the second row of the audience. Emily Thornberry at times struggled to explain key points in her manifesto fully, and confessed that she didn’t know any policies not in the Labour and Conservative manifestos, when asked to name another party’s policy she most admired. That seems curious for a party that would almost certainly need the support of other parties to form a government.
Nevertheless, the debate was interesting and intelligent overall, with each of the candidates proving strong in particular areas. Markedly, Vince Cable’s explanation of his track record in negotiating trade deals gave us food for thought – would it be useful (if unlikely) for the next government to include talent from across parties to participate in the gruelling process of negotiating the UK’s exit from the European Union?