14th April 2015
News about the general election in Leicester
Our special news report about the 2015 general election in Leicester and Leicestershire
This year’s election see the second vote for the position of Mayor, the post having been created in 2011 as one of a number of cities being given elected Mayors by the government.
Thursday 30th April
Mayoral debate takes to the airwaves
All seven candidates who are running for the office of Mayor of Leicester gathered at the Embrace Arts centre tonight to answer questions from members of the public.
Hosted by Radio Leicester presenter, Ben Jackson, the seven candidates gave their answers to the questions during the sixty minute programme.
The candidates were: Barbie Potter, Adrian Barnes, Paul Bremner, Tim Grayson, Avtar Singh, Peter Soulsby and Dutch Velduizen.
No question dealt directly with the arts or music; the last question included culture and several questions were about topics that would affect the arts, including issues to do with transport. Economic issues cropped up quite a lot but many candidates failed to recognise the important of the arts or even of the creative industries in the future of the city’s development.
The first question to be put to the panel was about the space created by the demolition of the New Walk centre (previously the offices of the City Council.) Replies given by the candidates to this question highlighted either their lack of vision or their inability to sense public opinion in the round. One candidate suggested that the space should be used to build an ice rink and another thought it should be used as a basketball venue. When one candidate put forward the view that it should be used as a public open space, Ben Jackson challenged him to explain how this could be funded and hot it would recoup the cost of development.
During the debate around the final question, put by Geoff Rowe (the organiser of the comedy festival) most of the candidates acknowledged that Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival was a very important tourist attraction for the city, bringing millions of pounds of economic benefits into the city each year. No mention was made by any of the candidates of the loss of the Summer Sundae festival and that Leicester now has no major music festival of national importance.
Mention was made of the importance of the Attenborough Arts centre (in which tonight’s debate was recorded) and one candidate suggested that there should be a pageant to celebrate Richard III.
Commenting on the seven candidates, editor of this magazine, Trevor Locke, said (after the debate): “On the whole all the candidates were weak in ideas and vision. This would have been an ideal opportunity to say what they would do for the arts and music but it turned out to be a missed opportunity.”
The one candidate who stood out on the panel was the incumbent Mayor who had seen over 40 years as a politician – more than all of the others’ experience put together. It is sad that the Mayoral elections have not attracted a more prestigious selection and that none of them have really made strong points about the arts and music.
The debate will be available from Radio Leicester on iPlayer at some stage.
Read our editorial on the future of arts policy in Leicester.
Tuesday 14th April 2015
Hustings held at Cathedral
Some of the candidates standing for election in some of the city and county gathered at Leicester Cathedral tonight to answer questions from the public.
The panel consisted of
John Ashworth, parliamentary candidate for the Labour party (Leicester South)
Michael Barker, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition party (Leicester East)
Paul Bremner, standing for Mayor (Conservative)
Tim Grayson, standing for Mayor (Green party)
Zuffar Haq, parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrat party (Harborough)
David Sprason, parliamentary candidate for the UKIP party (Bosworth)
and was chaired by The Bishop of Leicester The Right Reverend Tim Stevens.
Given the rubric ‘Quiz the Parties’ the evening allowed members of the public to hear what this selection of candidates had to say. Each of the men (there were no women on the panel) was given a set time in which to make an opening and closing statement of their views. Members of the audience asked questions, each candidate being given a set amount of time in which to answer.
None of them said anything about the arts. Clearly not a subject on their agenda of priorities. The main issues were talked about, covering a wide range of topics including the economy, the NHS, housing, immigration and Trident. The first question hit an unusual note when an audience question asked the candidates to say what can government do to put morality at the heart of national, economic policy-making. Several speakers did see moral issues as being part of the electoral debate: justice, equality, humanity, fairness, respect and so on.
It was a genteel occasion, as befitted the environment in which it was held. None of the candidates really stood out. Sitting MP John Ashworth had the most experience, having represented the Leicester South consistency since his election to the seat in the 2011 by-election when the sitting MP Sir Peter Soulsby stood down. Some of the other candidates have served as councillors in the city or the country and one or two had no previous experience of elected office.
They were there to represent the views of their party. Sir Peter Soulsby, who is seeking a second term of office as Mayor, was not there, The Labour Party being represented by John Ashworth.
The event lasted for an hour and a half and with a panel of six speakers time for speaking was in short supply. Gone are the days when politicians would make speeches lasting for two to three hours, as they used to in Leicester long ago. In this age of the Internet, there are plenty of opportunities to hear what politicians have to say in the media, on Twitter and what ever social media each one chooses to use.
Politics is less personal these days; more digital as each politician tries to reach the largest number of people, TV and the Internet giving them much more reach into the electorate than face-to-face encounters.
After the meeting I spoke to a couple of the candidates and asked them if they would be prepared to share their views about the arts, via this magazine. We shall see what they come up with.
13th April 2015
Greens launch manifesto
The Green Party launched their manifesto for Leicester’s elections at the Town Hall Square today.
Whilst not all their candidates were present, the Greens gathered a group for a photo opportunity.
Standing for election for Mayor of Leicester was artist and poet Tim Grayson (whose work featured in this magazine in previous years.)
The Green’s manifesto devoted a whole section to Arts & Leisure. Among the points they made they wanted to encourage public art, such as busking and pop-theatre in designated areas of the city centre. They also said they would organise regular public meetings to gauge public reactions to arts and leisure initiatives. Their policies emphasised arts at the local, community level.
Our main article on Election15.
Read our coverage of the 2010 elections
In the run-up to 7th May, Artsin’s editor will be posting on his Twitter account.