UKC Currents Affairs and Politics Society host General Elections Hustings
The UKC Currents Affairs and Politics Society (UKC CAPS) hosted a hustings session in Rutherford Lecture Theatre 1 on 12 February. The hustings was chaired by the society, and involved six Parliamentary Candidates for the Canterbury and Whitstable constituency, including the candidates for the central parties.
Each candidate was given three minutes to speak at the start of the evening, where they could state their main manifesto points, as well as giving the audience a bit of background on their political careers so far.
Robert Cox, the Socialist Party candidate started by stating that other parties had at points had 10 years at a time in which to make a change, but the capitalist regime of our country still stood. Cox stated: “Nothing gets done unless there is a profit to be made.”
Liberal-Democrat PPC, James Flanagan, argued that politics needs to change, and that he believes a lot of people in the local area are upset and disillusioned with politics. The self-proclaimed ‘Canterbury lad’ also said that, for him, democracy is about representatives and how they engage with the people they represent.
Then came the first laughs of the evening, when Ukip PPC Jim Gascoyne stood up, declaring that he was ‘proud to be a representative of Nigel Farage’s People’s Army’. Gascoyne argued that politics today is boring, and that he is proud to be British, and proud to say so. Much like many other Ukip candidates, Gascoyne listed his main point as wanting the UK to make its own trade deals with the world.
Green Party candidate Stuart Jeffery then spoke about the unstable economy which in his opinion is driving the world to ruin, saying that we are experiencing ‘Victorian levels of depravation and inequality’, and are living in a squalid system rife with anger.
Hugh Lanning, the Labour candidate spoke about fighting privatisation, and related his speech to students, saying he was concerned about the lack of proper jobs and decent pay. He also stated that in his opinion, austerity wasn’t caused by the welfare claimant, the immigrant, or the public sector worker.
The final candidate to speak was current MP, Julian Brazier of the Conservative party. Brazier briefly recapped what the Conservative party have achieved whilst in government since the 2010 election.
With the introductory speeches concluded, UKC CAPS then posed four questions to the candidates, and each candidate was given two minutes in which to answer.
What is the biggest challenge the UK will face in coming years?
Brazier (Conservative): Unfortunately the answer to this is still the economy, the Eurozone isn’t working, so alternatives need to be found.
Flanagan (Liberal-Democrat): The UK needs to rebuild after a period of great struggle.
Gascoyne (Ukip): The UK needs to regain its position in the world, and it is constrained by membership to the EU.
Jeffery (Green): The current living wage is a poverty wage, education should be free, and we need to tackle inequalities in gender pay.
Lanning (Labour): The poor and public servants are paying the price of austerity, not the people causing it. We need more jobs, more housing, and a living wage that people can survive off.
What are the specific issues you need to tackle in the Canterbury and Whitstable area?
Brazier (Conservative): National issues such as the NHS are affecting the local area massively.
Cox (Socialist): No particular issue is affecting Canterbury more than anywhere else, no matter where we live, the problems are the same. The economic system is run by the minority, not the majority, and changing it isn’t in their interests.
Flanagan (Liberal-Democrat): Youth unemployment is a major issue in the local area. In Canterbury, students and young people are unfairly targeted as the cause of disruption and crime, so he would work with the local police and the universities to combat this. Congestion and pollution are also major issues.
Gascoyne (Ukip): Local government is a ‘bunch of nodding donkeys doing just what their leader tells them to do’.
Jeffery (Green): There is a real problem in the local area with affordable housing.
Lanning (Labour): The focus on the NHS should be care, not privatisation and profit. He would look to invest on proper living wage and care services.
What is your opinion on the UK-EU relationship?
Brazier (Conservative): Nothing like the Eurozone has ever worked before. The Conservatives are committed to renegotiating the UK’s role within the EU.
Cox (Socialist): It doesn’t matter if the party is part of the EU or not, because the government’s interests will always be the same thing – that interest being to make money.
Flanagan (Liberal-Democrat): There are lots of benefits to being in the EU that aren’t covered by the media or in politics. There are plenty of things that need to be changed within Europe, but also within Westminster.
Gascoyne (Ukip): Hopes the UK will take charge of their own affairs when we get the Referendum, IF we get the Referendum. 80% of legislative affairs are decided within Brussels, so we suffer the consequences of an external government.
Jeffery (Green): The idea of immigrants flooding the country is false, if we want the right to live and work in Europe, then we should be willing to give Europeans the same rights here.
Lanning (Labour): Governments in Europe need to be more transparent and democratic. The problems in Greece and Spain came from austerity, so there should be a common cause that we all fight.
What can your party offer that the others cannot?
Brazier (Conservative): We can do more in the education system and with the NHS, but we need to bring more people into work, offering the opportunity for dignity.
Cox (Socialist): We need to come to a point where we can provide for every person on the planet.
Flanagan (Liberal-Democrat): We can expand and improve the economy in the correct way. Renewable energy is at heart of our energy going forward.
Gascoyne (Ukip): Ukip will see that the British public are offered a real option when it comes to the EU Referendum.
Jeffery (Green): The Green Party will give real environmental change. It will end student fees. The Greens will renationalise rail services.
Lanning (Labour): Labour will stop the privatisation of the NHS for future generations. Living wage is something we ought to have.
With the questions from UKC CAPS now concluded, the floor was opened to questions, a few of the highlights included:
On the lack of female candidates for the constituency
Lanning (Labour): Equal opportunities need to be addressed within political parties.
Jeffery (Green): “My biggest concern when running was that I am not a woman.”
On the First-Past-the-Post voting system
Gascoyne (Ukip): Ukip would much rather have a proportional representation voting system.
Flanagan (Liberal-Democrat): First-Past-the-Post works for elections contested by two parties, but with the rise in political parties, the system seems lacking. Tony Blair won in 2005 with 36% of the vote, ‘this is not democratic’.
On the deficit
Brazier (Conservative): Growth is picking up, unemployment is dropping, we need to carry on in the vein we’re in now.
On NATO membership
Lanning (Labour): Wars have been no solution to the problem in the past.
Gascoyne (Ukip): NATO doesn’t always work well but we should remain members. We should not get involved with things that have nothing to do with us however.
On minority groups in society
Brazier (Conservative): Children are the most under-represented minority, the recent problems in Rotherham prove this.
Jeffery (Green): We need to continue with the progress that’s been made for LGBT rights and women’s rights.
Lanning (Labour): We have to stand up against sexism, homophobia and lad culture.
Flanagan (Liberal-Democrat): Civil liberties are so important.
Cox (Socialist): There are only two groups in society, the majority and the minority. The minority splits us up to try to keep control, and the majority do the work but reap none of the rewards and hold little power.
Overall the evening was a great success, with Rutherford Lecture Theatre 1 being almost packed to the rafters, and many students and members of the local community in attendance. At the end of the night the chairs of the debate from UKC CAPS asked the audience if the night had helped them to choose who to vote for, and many said that it had.
Please note: all comments in this article are paraphrased unless explicitly quoted.