The General Election got real for me yesterday, not because another manifesto was published (from the Conservatives), but because the hustings came to the constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Last night I was privileged to appear on a platform hosted by Transport 21 and the Triangle Community Group, on local transport issues. The meeting featured three of the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates for the hotly contested parliamentary seat – Charlotte Vere for the Conservatives, Caroline Lucas for the Greens, and Nigel Carter from UKIP. Oddly, Nancy Platts, the Labour PPC, was invited but failed to show. The meeting was chaired by Chris Todd from Brighton Friends of the Earth, and I had been asked along by the organisers to kick off with a non-political Living Streets “Vision” of what Brighton and Hove could be like as a more pedestrian-friendly place. The 70 plus people at the meeting seemed to like the vision (contact me if you’d like the slides). How about the politicians? Charlotte Vere had clearly spent quality time with the Tory Manifesto, placing her faith in David Cameron’s big idea, "An Invitation To Join the Government of Britain." Despite a lot of audience questioning, it wasn’t too clear what this might mean for policies on the ground (eg: Cyclists: “We want a bike lane.” Motorists: “We don’t.” Stalemate. What happens next?). Nigel Carter pointed us to the UKIP website for the detailed transport policies, and unveiled his big idea of free parking for electric cars. Caroline Lucas encompassed both national transport policy, and the detailed stuff of transport in Brighton and Hove - from the dismal performance of First Capital Connect trains, to the ups and downs (mostly ups) of our local buses, not to mention the shenanigans around the Sustainable Transport Partnership and the shelving of so many good schemes by the current Conservative council. The Clap-o-meter reading told me that the people in the room would like to send Caroline Lucas to Westminster as Britain’s first Green MP. But we’re going to have to wait until May 6th to find out whether their fellow constituents in Brighton Pavilion think the same way.
* noun, plural: platform or place for political electioneering speeches; election proceedings.