Once every four years, London gets the chance to choose its Mayor. This year's election campaign has been one of the most exciting since the Mayoralty commenced in 2000, and that sense of excitement was palpable at the “Mayoral Hustings in the City” on 2 April, which I had the pleasure of chairing. About 250 people attended the event, all of whom either lived or worked in London and all of whom wished to probe the representatives of six of the seven candidates on their policies.
The questions put to the politicians ranged from the commitment of City Hall to cultural events and festivals in London to policies for reducing youth unemployment in the capital. All of the questions asked were relevant to Londoners as a whole, and yet they were also reflective of the specific concerns of the predominantly multicultural audience that evening.
One question that particularly struck me was from a woman who worked in London but lived in Kent and who believed that she was unfairly disenfranchised by being unable to vote in the Mayoral elections, despite being affected directly by the Mayor's decisions on issues such as transport. In a time when people dismiss the electorate as being bored of politics and uninterested in the electoral process, it was refreshing to see somebody who actually wanted the right to vote.
Perhaps my biggest concern on the evening was this: How can we make politics interesting to young people who would probably much rather vote in Britain's Got Talent or The Voice than in an election? On the night, we took the approach that we should only give a minute to each candidate to answer questions so that they would have to be short, pithy, and to the point, as well as allow all of the candidates to respond in an equal and fair manner. That approach seemed to work, and it was also appreciated by all of the politicians at the Hustings because of that notion of fairness in practice.
The main thing that I have learned from organising the event is that it is indeed possible to engage young adults with politics, so long as the correct approach is used. The format of the evening, namely having the Hustings followed by networking over drinks and canapés, helped create the right environment for the audience members to feel wholly included within that evening's event. I have since spoken to some of the politicians who were present at the event and they appeared to value the opportunity to speak to the attendees on a one-to-one basis more than the Hustings itself, which I found mildly surprising.
The Mayor of London has now been chosen, and is leading this city during the most exciting year that London has seen for decades. I believe that the “Mayoral Hustings in the City” has, in perhaps a small way, helped some people decide who they voted for. It has certainly shown that political engagement is possible when organisations such as Deloitte and the City Sikhs Network come together to work for the greater good.
Jasvir Singh Degun
Jasvir is a Director of the City Sikhs Network. He is a barrister specialising in family law and general civil law matters. He is also involved in numerous initiatives promoting inter-faith work and community cohesion