How to organise a Warm Homes hustings with local partners

Hustings are one of the best ways to win political commitments. Find out how to organise one and make warm homes a priority this general election.

29 May 2024

What’s a hustings and why organise one?

A hustings is a panel discussion in the run-up to an election where candidates debate policies and answer questions from the audience. Holding a hustings in your local community is a great opportunity to work with local partners and win commitments from election candidates about how they’ll deliver on warm homes. Securing these commitments at a hustings means you can hold them to account on their promises if they’re elected. 

We recommend you organise your Warm Homes hustings with local partners, whether that’s food banks, fuel poverty groups, renters’ unions, mutual aid groups, faith groups or any other community groups you’ve built partnerships with through the United for Warm Homes campaign. Co-organising the event can help boost the number of people you have in the room, spread the workload, and show candidates that the issues of cold homes and fuel poverty are important to a diverse range of people.

Hustings events are a great moment for members of your community to see your group in action. Make sure you have a sign-up sheet at your hustings event so that members of the public can sign up to get involved in your group.

Deciding the basics

You’ll need to get the basic details agreed with your local partners as soon as possible. These are:

  • Date: firm up your date as soon as possible so you can book a venue. While there's no perfect day or time to hold a hustings, do try and avoid clashing with other local events. You might want to consider holding it in the evening or on weekends when more people can join.
  • Venue: you can hold your hustings online or in person. If you’re holding your hustings online, Zoom is a great tool for doing this. Get in touch with us at [email protected] if you’d like to book a Zoom account for this. If your hustings is in-person, be sure to find an accessible venue. Places like community centres and churches are often good venues to choose.
  • Risk assessment: ensure you complete this ahead of your event.
  • Chairperson/ host: you’ll need someone to host/ chair the event and make sure the debate stays on track. Make sure you pick someone who isn't publicly affiliated with a political party and is familiar with the issue of warm homes. They can be a member of your group, a member of a local partner organisation, a local journalist or even a local celeb.
  • Inviting candidates: be sure to invite your candidates as early as possible. As you can imagine, they’ll be very busy during the election period, so you may need to arrange the date around their collective availability. Use our template letter to invite candidates.

You don’t have to invite every candidate standing in your area, as that could become unmanageable. However, during the general election period, you must also comply with electoral law. When organising a hustings, the simplest way to do this is to ensure your event is “non-selective”. This means either inviting all the candidates/ parties known to be standing in your constituency, or only inviting a select number of candidates based on one of the following reasons: 

  • Resources and other practicalities, for example time or space, that limit the numbers of people you can invite
  • Security concerns 
  • Local prominence of some parties or candidates over others 
  • The number of elected representatives at the local or national level 
  • Recent election results in the area. 

Based on this, we recommend that to ensure a well-run hustings with a variety of questions, you should invite candidates from parties that won a seat in the 2019 general election. That would be Conservative, Green, Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates in England and Wales, plus Plaid Cymru in Wales. You can invite other candidates to take part if you wish, but please be mindful that this may have an impact on how well your hustings runs. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you have questions or concerns about which candidates to invite to your hustings.

Choosing a hustings format

You aren’t restricted to a particular format for your event, but here are a few ideas:

  • Traditional hustings. This is where you have a chair and the candidates at the front of the room (physically or online). Candidates are given the opportunity to make an opening statement and then answer questions from the audience in turn, with the potential opportunity for candidates to make a closing statement.
  • Speed hustings. This is a bit like speed dating as the audience is split into small groups and candidates move around spending, for example, 10 minutes with each group. This enables more of a conversation with the candidates, although you might want to invite candidates to make an opening statement in each group. You could give each group a theme focused around each of our campaign demands and allow the audience to self-select into these groups.  
  • Filmed interviews. These are with each candidate, and you ask questions that have been submitted by constituents beforehand. You can then share these interviews on screening platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo.  

When choosing your hustings format, think about whose voices get heard, who’s speaking and who’s doing the listening. Hustings are a good opportunity for voters to hear from candidates, but also for candidates to hear from voters about the issues they really care about and what they expect once someone is elected. Make sure you give space for your local partners to ask questions and have their voices heard.

You might also want to think about bringing in an expert to speak about the issue at the hustings. Take a look at our video from Professor Michael Marmot speaking about the health impacts of cold homes. Playing this before you ask questions to your candidates could help set the set the scene for how the issue is impacting people's lives.

Bringing the voices of your community into the event

Your Warm Homes hustings will be an important moment for candidates to hear from your local community about how cold homes and fuel poverty are impacting them. Hearing heartfelt messages from potential voters will help win them round to the need for warm homes. You can do this by:

  • Bringing postcards to the event. If you’ve been collecting Warm Homes postcards in your community, you can use these at the event by reading out messages to candidates, or even creating a display of them for candidates and members of the public to read. Make sure you have permission from anyone who’s written a message on a postcard before displaying it publicly.
  • Displaying your community quilt. Your hustings event is a great opportunity to put your community quilt on display if you made one for our Day of Action last November.
  • Working with local partners. Your local campaign partners may have connections with people in the community who’d be willing to ask questions at hustings, or even give an opening speech about their experiences of cold homes and fuel poverty. 

Getting the word out

By getting members of the community along to your hustings event, you can demonstrate to candidates just how much support there is for warm homes, and recruit new members to your group. Don’t forget to order leaflets and other resources ahead of your event so people know who you are and how they can get involved in your campaign.

Local press is a really important tool to let people know about your event. Candidates will also want all the media coverage they can get and may be more likely to attend if they know the press are coming. Make sure you invite local journalists to the event, and let candidates know if press have been invited or are coming.

 

Use Action Network, a digital campaign platform, to support your local campaigning. We've put together an Action Network hustings event template, which is a great way to promote your hustings event and group. 

Be sure to spread the word on social media using our social media resources: editable Canva templates for Facebook, Instagram and X, as well as template social media posts. Tag your local partners in these posts so they can help spread the word with their networks.

We can help too. Just send details of your event to [email protected] and we can email supporters in your area to invite them to your event.

Finally, The Climate Coalition are creating a map of all hustings being organised around the UK. Get your hustings added to the map by filling in their quick Google form with details about your event.

Structuring your event

Below is an outline of how to structure your hustings. This is only a template to help your planning, so work with partners to adapt it and make it work for you, particularly if you’re going to use one of the other suggested formats besides a traditional hustings. Our one key tip is to leave ample time for the audience to speak and candidates to listen, as hustings are a rare opportunity for your community to ask direct questions of their potential future representatives.

Audience members sat watching 4 panellists talk on a stage
Hustings

Hustings last roughly 90 minutes, or a maximum of 2 hours. If you're doing it online, it might be worth setting the Zoom webinar up to start 5 minutes before the public start time, so that candidates can get settled and fix any connection problems.

In the event a candidate can’t join, don't panic. Ask if their campaign manager can stand in their place. If worst comes to worst, you could ask them to provide a written statement to be read out.

  • Welcome from the chairperson. At the beginning of the event, make sure you mention the name of your group and local partners, and let people know how they can get involved in the United for Warm Homes campaign. If you're doing it online, include a brief introduction on Zoom guidelines (10 mins).
  • Voices from the community. Set the scene for candidates and members of the public about how fuel poverty is impacting your local community. This could include speeches from individuals, messages from postcards and information on the number of homes needing insulation in your local area (10 mins).
  • Introductory remarks from candidates (15 mins). This can be useful for attendees who aren't familiar with the candidates. You can frame this around an introductory question, such as "what are you going to do to tackle fuel poverty and ensure warm homes for all if elected?", to ensure they stay on topic.
  • Questions from the chairperson to candidates (20 mins).
  • Audience Q&A (20 mins). You may want to think through how to structure the Q&A. For example, you could ask attendees to submit questions at the beginning of the event via the Q&A feature.
  • Closing remarks from candidates (10 mins).
  • Chairperson closes hustings and reminds people again of the name of your group and how to get involved (5 mins).

Don’t forget to post photos along with key quotes from candidates on social media during your event using #UnitedforWarmHomes. This will allow people who were unable to join your event to follow along. Using the hashtag means other Warm Homes groups can hear about your event too.

Model questions

We recommend that you get together with your local partners in advance of the event to decide what questions you’re going to ask candidates. Make sure to tailor your questions as much as possible to your local area, and bring in the voices of people impacted directly by fuel poverty where you can.

Here are a few suggested questions you could ask candidates.

Q1: In our constituency, XX% [use our energy crisis hotspots map to find this stat] of homes are energy inefficient, leaving thousands of people living in cold, damp homes. This has serious effects on people’s mental and physical health, as well as causing unnecessary climate emissions through wasted energy. Will your party ensure no-one has to live in a cold home by supporting the rapid roll-out of a street-by-street home insulation programme, starting in neighbourhoods that are most affected by fuel poverty? 

Q2: Research by Friends of the Earth has shown that 2.5 million rental households are living in poorly insulated homes and have incomes below the Minimum Income Standard. If elected, what will you do to ensure that rental properties, both private and social, are insulated to at least EPC C standard, as promised in the government’s 2021 Net Zero Strategy? 

Q3: Across the country, millions of people are struggling with soaring bills and the rising cost of living. What will your party do to provide urgent support to people who are being forced to ration their energy usage, living in cold, damp homes, and even struggling to put food on the table? 

Q4: In the UK, over 80% of homes are dependent on gas for heating. This over-reliance on expensive fossil fuels has left many of us struggling to pay our energy bills, while oil and gas companies rake in billions of pounds in profits. What will your party do to ensure our homes are heated by cheap, homegrown renewable energy instead of expensive and polluting fossil fuels?

After your event

Let people know how the event went by posting on social media and contacting the press after your hustings. Whatever you post or say, remember to remain impartial. The best way to do this is to avoid comparing the performance of different candidates or parties, or saying who had the most support or “won”. Leave that up to the people who attended to decide. As long as you stick to our impartiality guidance, you’ll be fine.

Holding a public event like a hustings is a great way to recruit new members to your group, so make sure you follow up with everyone who attended to let them know how they can get involved.

Follow up with any partners you organised the event with too. Running a hustings is a big undertaking, so plan to spend some social time together and reflect on how the event went, as well as opportunities to continue to work together going forward.  

Finally, let us know how it went! We’ll be gathering group stories and campaign successes throughout the election so we can see the collective impact we’re having. Be sure to tell us about your hustings and share any photos you have so we can let other groups know about it and they can learn from your success.

Apply for funding

The United for Warm Homes Fund is open to all groups who’ve signed up to the United for Warm Homes campaign. Don’t forget you can use the fund to cover costs: from venue hire to leaflet printing, we’ve got you covered.