Last night was Lincoln’s official hustings with six out of the seven local candidates in attendance. The debate, hosted appropriately at the Drill Hall, where our next MP will be chosen in the small hours of Friday morning.
The evening kicked off with a one minute opening speech from each candidate followed by a series of questions from members of the public, including those in the audience. Sat upfront it was interesting to see the reactions of those there, which appeared to match the live stream comments coming in throughout the night.
There were a good few heckles about Karl McCartney, our current Conservative MP and candidate for this election, and his refusal to come citing ‘media bias’. Comments varied from questioning whether he was washing is hair to swathes of online viewers suggesting he was at home writing up his expenses form. At the end of the evening, Karl’s website and social media details were read out so people could find his pledges, which led to further shout-outs suggesting if you want publicity, you should turn up.
Interesting that ‘media bias’ was the argument for not attending and yet all the organisers and indeed fellow candidates were very gracious about the situation; his constituents on the other hand seemed by and large very disappointed and indeed angered at his refusal to take part. In the MP’s defence, given the reservations he has about his party’s ability to protect members adequately from ‘media sh** storms’ perhaps we should cut McCartney some slack.
Those who were there included two independents – Phil Gray and Iain Scott-Burdon, Labour candidate Karen Lee, Lib Dem Caroline Kenyon, Nick Smith for UKIP and Ben Loryman representing the Green Party. The night went very smoothly and there was a surprising amount of agreement and support between the six when they shared ideologies.
That’s not to say it didn’t get heated in parts, mainly when defending their own record, but it was enlightening and indeed encouraging to see that in our local politicians had the ability to put policies before party. Incidently when asked if they would vote against their own party, all six said if it was for the good of Lincoln then yes, they would. Caroline Kenyon aptly said, “Of course. I’m a Lib Dem. If we’re not rebelling what’s the point? I do what’s best for the constituency first and foremost.”
Going in I wasn’t sure what to expect as Nick Smith is the only one I’ve ever really seen/known from previous years, but there were some great points made, particularly in relation to the NHS and the need for Lincoln to have its own specific school of medicine and nursing.
Labour representative Karen Lee, whom many believe is the only realistic candidate against the Tories (not necessarily true, if the Liberal Democrats can be forgiven for their coalition transgressions I believe they could do very well) is a nurse at Lincoln County and has been for many years, giving her direct insight into the impact cuts and increasing privatisation has had every, single, day.
Dr Ben Loryman also spoke about the desperate need for more staff, and how important it is European medical staff are allowed to stay without worrying whether they will be sent away. On said topic, Kenyon pointed out for many EU citizens, it’s not just the worry about whether they can stay, but about whether they want to as they ‘don’t feel welcome’. Independent Iain Scott-Burdon suggested we needed a points scheme akin to Australia, taking on those that who’s trade we are in need of at present.
Phil Gray, quickly nicknamed the ‘music man’ online was, in my humble opinion, fantastic. A couple of online viewers felt that it was making light of a serious subject; but surely if you can vote for a man in a pink fluffy hat, a guitar and a harmonica – democracy is doing okay? In addition, Phil’s ideas for tackling funding issues, helping the homeless and how to deal with foreign policy were pretty spot on if audience reaction is anything to go by.
Scott-Burdon discussed his belief in British values, investment in public services and a need for greater community cohesion within Lincoln and beyond.
Incidently this is where Caroline shone. Her eloquence when discussing how important community spirit is along with the need to stop arming various countries regardless of the economic gain (something Phil very passionately discussed – asking how women and children were any less deserving of peace in Syria, Iraq, Iran or anywhere else) is something that resonated very well with the audience.
Nick Smith talked about how we are at war with Islam, and that we may not think it but they certainly do. This is unfortunately the mistake Theresa May made in her speech after the atrocious scenes in London at the weekend, most Muslims were busy fasting, praying and supporting charity of all kinds to be hating the West.
It is not religion we should be concentrating on, it should be on those who seek to abuse and falsify something peaceful for their own twisted glory. However he did speak about the need to keep EU workers within the NHS safe and supported and help those regardless of race or religion, along with backing up other candidates when he agreed with them.
Lee spoke about the PM’s despicable police cuts which have led far beyond breaking point now, and how a vote for Labour is essential to ensuring the stability of people’s lives within the UK.
Online some people found the Labour candidate’s jibes at the government a little unnecessary and wished she’d concentrated on her own party’s manifesto instead. As I said when interviewed last night, although I do agree to a certain extent, if I’d had to deal with a year long media black out against our entire party, I’d want to get my point across at how much the opposition had screwed up (and let’s face it, they have, royally) where possible.
There was then talk about incomes, the national living wages and being able to rent. People who are currently trying to make ends meet are still going to food banks, which Karen has visited and volunteered in and was shocked to see such a wide range of people using their services.
Loryman discussed how if he got into parliament he would be making himself well heard on the topic of NHS and environmental funding, stating that global warming IS happening, we have about 20 years to sort things out before it’s too late and begged people to believe scientists, not sceptics.
Wrapping up on the NHS, a local dentist asked how they could improve dental services, to which everyone agreed greater funding and encouragement for people to train was needed. Mental health was also cited as being a huge issue with guidelines that desperately need reviewing.
At the end of the night we were lucky enough to get a little song from Phil during closing statements (what better way to end a debate?) and the quote of the night from the public on Facebook’s stream chat, ‘the only numbers in the Tory manifesto are the page numbers’.