Date updated: Tuesday 11th June 2024

A hustings is a meeting where political candidates address potential voters. Hustings form an important part of democratic engagement and allow voters to hear from candidates and parties. The Electoral Commission, the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the UK, categorises hustings into non-selective and selective. Non-selective and selective hustings have distinct regulatory considerations. 

In the lead up to the UK Parliamentary general election, charities, faith groups, local businesses and other community organisations may be asked to hold a ‘hustings’. A hustings can be a powerful way for churches, faith groups, local businesses and community organisations to engage with the democratic process. 

These are hustings that can reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against particular political parties or candidates. Spending on selective hustings will be regulated depending on the amount spent.

Non-selective hustings are described by the Electoral Commission as hustings that cannot reasonably be regarded as intended to influence voters to vote for or against particular political parties or candidates. Any spending towards non-selective hustings is not regulated. The Electoral Commission explains that a husting will be seen as non-selective if you have invited all the candidates or parties known to be standing in the constituency, region, or other electoral area, or you have impartial reasons for not inviting certain candidates or parties.

Impartial reasons may include constraints on resources like time or space, security concerns, the prominence of certain parties or candidates locally, the allocation of elected representatives at different levels, and recent election outcomes in the area. It is possible to a hold a non-selective husting and not invite all the candidates as long as impartial reasons are chosen. For example, only inviting the candidates from the political parties who enjoyed the top three vote share in the last election in the constituency. However, if you invite one minority candidate, then, generally speaking, unless you invite all the minority candidates the hustings is viewed as being selective and not impartial. 

There are different forms of non-selective hustings which are important to note in order to suit the resources you have available to you and the aims of your organisation. Here are a few practical ways you can hold your hustings:

  • Traditional hustings: Candidates address an audience, followed by a Q&A session.

  • Panel discussion: Candidates participate in a moderated discussion with audience questions.

  • Debate: structured for candidates to engage on specific topics.

  • Town hall style: informal interaction between candidates and voters.

  • Online/virtual hustings: digital events for broader accessibility.

  • Speed hustings: rotating discussions between candidates and audience.

These formats aim to facilitate candidate-voter communication, transparency, and informed decision-making.

Careful planning and effective communication are crucial for successful hustings, regardless of format. Embracing diverse formats and engaging stakeholders make these events vibrant platforms for democratic discourse, whether online or offline, informing voters and encouraging civic participation.

The UK Parliamentary General Election, to be held on 4 July, is an important opportunity to engage in democracy. This year Stone King is proud to be the first law firm accrediting with Citizens UK as a Voter Registration Champion. You can find out more here.