For organisers, this can be very irritating. In the first instance, try to find a date which all your invited candidates can make – and try to be flexible if things go awry!
- Non-response – If you do not get a response, you need to follow up on your invitations. Keep chasing and try to get an email address and telephone number for the candidate and their election agent so you can keep in touch.
- Declines – if a candidate has declined to attend (due to another commitment, for example) you don’t have to worry about whether your event is impartial, since it is the invitation which counts. If it is a candidate of one of the main national parties, think about whether you would be happy to have a different party spokesperson take part. In the case of a constituency hustings for the Welsh Senedd or Scottish Parliament, it would be reasonable to allow the party concerned to nominate one of its regional list candidates as a substitute. You may wish to make a statement at the start of the event, explaining why the candidate is not able to make it. It is good practice to invite such candidates to submit a short, written statement (of the same length as the opening statements of parties who are present) to be read out by the chair at the start of the meeting.
- Boycotts – some parties have a policy of not sharing a platform with other parties, as it is felt this conveys a degree of legitimacy on them. If you find that because party X is standing, candidates from Y and Z will not turn up, what should your planning group do? Be prepared to consider holding a different event or not holding an event if it will not be of benefit to the community.
- No-shows – clearly this would be disappointing for the planning group and the audience, but also for a candidate who has forgotten! Elections can be very busy times, so minimise the unexpected by keeping in touch with candidates, share phone numbers and confirm all the arrangements a couple of days before the event.