19 February 2015
Hustings in Wales
During the 2010 general election, CARE provided a great service to the Church and public by asking church groups to register hustings on the 'Make the Cross Count' website. By the time of the election, there were 293 church-run hustings registered, working out at one event for every three constituencies.
The website and awareness of the Church's contribution to citizenship and democracy in this way was picked up the media and widely covered in both the Christian and secular press. This established in many people's minds for the first time the fact that the Church was easily the largest provider of hustings in the UK – known in church circles but not widely-known outside of them.
With the 7 May General Election creeping up on us in Wales, churches are once again beginning to organise hustings. On this occasion – and for the first time in Wales – Evangelical Alliance Wales is drawing up a list of church-led events throughout the nation.
Hustings are being planned or considered in at least 27 of Wales' 40 constituencies, with at least 13 events with confirmed dates in 10 constituencies thus far. In all likelihood, churches in Wales will eclipse the hustings to constituency ratio for the UK established by CARE in 2010.
Does this mean that Christians in Wales are more politically aware than in the rest of the UK? Not necessarily so –the hustings data has come from patiently and painstakingly contacting church networks and leaders around Wales and, were the same time devoted to this around the different parts of the UK, similar results might be yielded.
What the number of hustings certainly can tell us is that – confirming the results of Evangelical Alliance's recently released Faith in Politics? report – Christians in general and evangelicals specifically are more politically engaged than the public as a whole. There is further evidence in Wales – anecdotal at this stage, but referred to in our report – that the evangelical vote is not a bloc vote but one which is varied, factoring in a range of concerns relating to the common good;human trafficking, poverty, injustice and equality for example. On top of this, many evangelicals are considering voting for a different party to the one they voted for in 2010. It's all to play for and the evangelical vote is indeed up for grabs.
The objectives in holding hustings in Wales will vary to a degree, but there will be certain common denominators solidifying our commitment to citizenship, including increasing the number of people voting, helping the public to think through how they should vote and bringing the candidates and thus future politicians closer to the people.