If a local politician’s response to the climate emergency influences your general election vote, you might want to book a seat at a Shaftesbury Town Hall debate on 21st November. Four men, each hoping to become Shaftesbury’s next Member of Parliament, will share their environmental credentials and answer questions.
Planet Shaftesbury member Rachel Bodle came up with the idea of inviting prospective parliamentary candidates to explain their party policies and personal environmentally focused actions. All four North Dorset candidates are taking part, representing the Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
“This election is being held at a time when we’re facing a climate and ecological emergency which will need to be tackled urgently by whatever government comes to power,” said Rachel, who has been involved with Planet Shaftesbury since the beginning of this year.
“Conversations with a handful of fellow participants confirmed that they too were keen to highlight environmental policies and plans for responding to the crisis during the election campaign. Planet Shaftesbury’s regular monthly meeting schedule gave me an obvious date, so I issued invitations to candidates to see whether we could make the hustings happen,” she added. The event will be chaired and moderated by Councillor Andy Hollingshead, who was elected to Shaftesbury Town Council as an independent candidate.
Rachel has spoken to the candidates about some topics that she believes the audience would like to know more about. They include plans for tackling the climate crisis, the candidates’ thoughts on fair ways of moving towards net-zero carbon emissions and how they would support low-carbon heating and more electric vehicles. Rachel also wants to hear the participants’ views on nature recovery, more sustainable land use and tree planting.
We sent the same three questions to all of North Dorset’s candidates and asked each of them to respond to each question with no more than two sentences. Firstly, we asked why the candidate wished to take part in this event.
Liberal Democrat candidate David Chadwick said, “I’m 27 and believe my generation has been dealt a terrible hand. We need to hold Simon Hoare to account for his terrible voting record on tackling the climate emergency.”
Conservative candidate Simon Hoare told us, “Representatives of Planet Shaftesbury and I had met some months ago and their enthusiasm and commitment is impressive. I wanted to help and support them where I could. I also wanted to build on the Climate Emergency meeting I organised in Sturminster last month. This is THE most pressing public policy issue of our time.
Labour candidate Pat Osborne said, “It’s important that those seeking public office should face the public and give them a chance to see what they’re all about. But I also have an affinity with the aims of Planet Shaftesbury, who are organising within their own community to take action on climate change and other environmental issues at a local level, and wanted to show my solidarity.”
Our second question to candidates was what do you believe to be the most important specific action the next UK government could take to tackle the climate emergency?
Simon Hoare (Conservative) told us, “I would like to see incentives put in place to encourage the sharing of best environmental practice with developing economies in order to ensure they don’t have to repeat our mistakes. We should also seek to incentivise clean and green fuels.”
Pat Osborne (Labour) said, “As I’ve said elsewhere, we need total systemic change, so it’s hard to pick one thing, but taking the national grid into public ownership is a critical first step to decarbonizing the economy at the pace needed to secure the future of the planet. Sharing new technology, free of charge, with the rest of the world (especially developing countries) will also make a big difference.”
David Chadwick (Liberal Democrat) replied with, “The next government should re-establish the Department for Energy and Climate Change to ensure that government resources are committed to delivering policies for tackling the climate emergency.”
Lastly, ThisIsAlfred asked the candidates what they had done personally to address the climate emergency.
Labour’s Pat Osborne replied, “Like the members of Planet Shaftesbury, I try to do my bit within my community as well as at home. I’m a founder member of Blandford War on Waste and I’m Chair of Blandford Forum Town Council’s Climate Action Working Group.”
Liberal Democrat David Chadwick told us, “The biggest personal action I have taken to address my carbon footprint has been to adjust my own consumption habits. I have been eating and drinking as much locally sourced food as possible.”
Conservative Simon Hoare said, “I’m running a plastic-free election campaign, so no posters going up. In 2017 we used hundreds of plastic posters/twine/cable ties, this time none! I am also gardening organically.”
The fourth prospective parliamentary candidate for the North Dorset constituency is the Green Party’s Ken Huggins. The Green Party’s North Dorset Branch was emailed these questions at the same time as other candidates. We had not received a response from their office or candidate by our deadline of Thursday lunchtime. If they send the responses before the hustings, we will add them here.
Rachel Bodle says that members of the public can quiz the politicians about any of these statements or submit their questions on email by 20th November to firstname.lastname@example.org. “People on Planet Shaftesbury’s mailing list will get a personal invitation to participate, whereas the wider public will learn about the event through our publicity, but all are equally invited to submit questions,” Rachel explained. “Time constraints will mean we need to select from questions submitted in advance, which will be done by me and our Chairman, Andy Hollingshead, the previous day, to give us a spread of questions.”
Rachel says she hopes that the discussions will be informative and useful as people consider how to vote. “I hope they’ll enjoy meeting and hearing from the candidates as they discuss the most important issue facing us,” she said.
‘The Climate and Ecological Emergency Hustings’ is being held at Shaftesbury Town Hall on 21st November. Doors open at 7pm, for a 7.30pm start. Space is limited and the Planet Shaftesbury team expect this to be popular. You will need to reserve a place through Eventbrite.