James Hellyer - a blogger for DD - authors the final (2,000 word) Hustings Report. I formally thank all of the volunteer reporters who have, by their sterling work, contributed to ConservativeHome's campaign for a more transparent and democratic Conservative Party.
The final hustings meeting took place in the less than salubrious environment of Exeter’s Livestock market. I’m not sure who selected an outdoor covered area for a night time meeting in late December, where a large contingent of elderly people were expected to attend, but they won’t be winning any prizes from Age Concern. The cold was widely noted, with even David Cameron joking that he’d lost feeling in his toes by the end of the evening!
This little bit of local colour aside, the rest of the hustings would have been eerily familiar to anyone who had read even one of the previous reports filed on this site. As at the earlier meetings, there seem to have been rather more David Davis supporters handing out leaflets than there were supporters doing likewise for the Cameron campaign – although this may be attributable to the cold finishing off the t-shirt clad Cameroons.
Everything else also seemed present and correct: David Cameron joking that the two Davids has spent so much time together they were thinking of entering a civil partnership; David Davis joking that after all this exposure together “Hello” magazine wanted a joint interview; Cameron boasting that he’d “really had Paxman”; and William Aitken sporting a “Modern Conservatives” t-shirt.
The sense of déjà vu didn’t dissipate as the night wore one. Davis’s speech was the best platform performance I’d seen him give, while Cameron seemed typically fluent. However, every substantive point of both man’s speech has already been amply covered. In summary, Davis made a plea for substance over image, conviction based politics and fighting the government and thus help speed its end. David Cameron offered the familiar platitudes about change, optimism and hope, as well as the need to reflect the country we want to govern. The key difference between the two was Cameron’s belief that we should support government bills we agree with, and Davis’s belief that we should not back bad bills, and that we should instead hasten Blair’s end.