There were at least a hundred or more members present, unfortunately biased towards the upper age groups; most of the younger ones later transpired to have had a purpose in their presence.
Angela Harvey, CPF Council - 'We here today are inputting to the next General Election manifesto'. She suggested there would be a straight yes/no ballot on the manifesto when it is produced but the audience vociferously wanted it item by item. This seemed to be a surprise to her. (We will not lie down and toe the line, particularly as many of us had seen the leaked report that policy debate is to be banned at the Party Conference.)
Michael Portillo - Apparently politicians are now seeing the political, rather than the economic, aspects of Euro-membership. 'It is clear to everyone that more money needs to be spent on health'. He has obviously benefited from a spell of unemployment - the surgeons did not recognise him as a hospital porter, but one patient, semi-dead, sat bolt upright - 'Good God, what are you doing here Mr Portillo?!'
Transport - both speakers had been told to talk about London, but the audience came from all over the SE and refused to be constrained.
Bob Neill (leader of Conservatives on GLA) said people do not actually care about ownership of public transport systems, only if buses and trains arrive on time and are reliable. He also stated that only the little people would be caught by congestion charges
'Question Time' - Ms Villiers demonstrated very clearly that the Conservative Party is following Tony Blair by controlling all its MP's and MEP's, whether elected as individuals or as a list. She saw her 'job' as an kind of whip. (I sat speechless.)
Nicky Griffiths spoke about 'campaigning' but did not see the problem of getting something to sell.
John Wilkinson spoke on tackling government (hooray!) and BUDGETS! - and to changing Euro-legislation! He really cheered me up after the plethora of boys and girls who were not only too young for the elected positions but were also very bad at basic speaking.
The Conservative PPCs on the platform, plus the abysmal MEP, were appalling - and this is not just my opinion. They were not only young but they were not up to any job at all. All were absolutely incompetent speakers - repeated calls to 'speak up' from the back of the hall were ignored - they looked awful, were talking parrot-fashion to CCO briefs and fawned too often on the (absent) Willy Hague. We know they have to creep a bit, but so much? If I have to appear in such a public situation I at least comb my hair beforehand, if not get it sensibly cut, while the boys would make all but the most rabid Tory vote for any other candidate available.
I did not have time to take up Kate Jenkins' invitation to send in material that could not be covered at the meeting, such as my guide for aspiring candidates that proposes a minimum age of 35 and no bleating about childcare. It is no use responding to Blair's Babes by putting up our own!