Peter had no problem and over an hour was spent answering questions from party members. Peter started first with a short speech, which highlighted the way he had found himself in the party- coming from South Africa and through his participation as one on the leading lights in the anti-apartheid movement. He spoke of his time in the Northern Ireland Office and his hope that on Monday he would be able to announce that agreement had been reached between Paisley and Adams. he then spoke on his push for deputy leader and also highlighting on what we should be proud of in what the party has achieved over the last two terms. he kept it short, but oozed confidence and also managed some moments of humour, saying that Northern Ireland Secretary must be the only job where you spend Saturday in Washington celebrating St Patrick's day with George Bush then having the company of Ian Paisley 48 hours later!
The questions - in summary- he answered a question on Trident- stating that though he had once supported CND, whilst the likes of Iran tried to build a nuclear weapon we still needed our own Nuclear arsenal. Faith Schools- did not support them and in his time in N Ireland he had found some success in opening non faith schools- though he wished we never had Faith schools he knew that we could also not just get rid of them. He spoke of the lack of social housing and though it had been right to focus on education and the NHS, we should of and hopefully we will in future spend more on the building of affordable homes and social housing. he answered a question on the Catholic Church and gay adoption, mentioning that there had been less conflict with the Catholic Church in N Ireland on that matter. He was then asked to name his 'Green' credentials-he mentioned the green policies he had implemented in Ulster and that he felt he was the 'most' green of all the deputy hopefuls.
He then answered a number of questions on what he saw as the role of the deputy leader- in short- a link between the PM, cabinet and the grassroots, the person who could have a private word with the PM (who he thought would be Gordon - un -opposed) and tell him some home truths-if needed! He thought the deputy leader had to be part of the cabinet and an MP- but maybe he did not need the burden of a post where he had a considerable financial budget.
He was not sure what the position of the Chairman of the party was - chosen by the PM - as now- elected by the NEC or by party members.
Peter then summarized- he stood for trust and commitment- he believed the party needed to re-new itself. To go forward, his strengths included his thirst for campaigning. He also sated that he had at times been a lone voice in that he thought we should have concentrated on the Lib Dem threat as much as the Tories, we may have then keep such seats as Cambridge- this went down well with Ipswich members as we have seen how the local Lib Dem's have jumped in bed with the Tories. We must re-new as he said you could see the Conservatives have regained that feeling that they have that god given right to govern. They were dangerous and needed to be stopped- they only have one concrete policy and that is to take us back to old Tory values.
Has he my vote? I still would like to know more about the other candidates, I will seek the opinions of others who attended yesterday at our campaign session tomorrow night. But at present he is my choice. One good thing about this election for deputy- it has got the party hierarchy out meeting members and has reinvigorated the political debate within branches. Just hope that when they are the campaign trail for deputy in April that branches use the opportunity to get them out on the doorstep campaigning for local candidates.
Pete- an eight out of ten performance.