The parliamentary candidates for the Totnes constituency came together in a Question Time style hustings in Dartington on Friday.
Gerrie Messer - Labour, Julian Brazil - Liberal Democrats, Dr Sarah Wollaston - Conservative, and Jacqi Hodgson - Green Party, all came together in the stunning Great Hall to respond to questions from the people of the constituency they hope to represent.
Steven Harvey - UKIP was unable to attend.
Chaired by human rights barrister and former Dartington School and KEVICCs student Jonathan Cooper OBE, the four candidates were asked questions by members of the public, with around 200 attending.
Opening the proceedings, there was a minute silence in memory of those killed in the suicide bombing in Manchester on Monday night. Mr Cooper then quoted American poets and civil rights activist Maya Angelou “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
The first question was asked by a child, Robert Hodgson, who asked about terrorism. He said: “To stop another terrorist attack, what measures would you put in place?”
The second question, asked by Richard Hosking, was about the national debt. “How important do you consider it to be for future generations that the UK government turns the deficit into surplus and how is this best achieved?”
The third question, asked by Alison Caudwell, was about Education. She asked “I’ve been a teacher for 20 years and I was on a demonstration last weekend about the massive cuts to education. What does the panel think about how schools and children are being affected by these cuts?”
The fourth question, asked by Arthur Durrant, was about Brexit. He asked “In last year’s referendum, the majority of those who voted in the South Hams, wished to remain in the European Union. How do you propose to represent them in the next parliament?”
The fifth question, asked by Samantha Gothard, was about the National Health Service. She asked: “Compared to other European countries, the UK ranks very low in the percentage of GDP spent on health, why? What would your party see the direction of travel to be?”
The sixth and seventh questions were amalgamated, with Mark Elcardie asking about arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Alison Williams asking about refugees and the Dubs amendment. Mr Elcardie asked: “Rather than the UK profiteering and continuing to profiteer from arms sales to terrorist-creating states like Saudi Arabia, as Theresa May is insistent on doing, and unquestioningly backing endless US wars for regime change, often using so-called ‘moderate’ terrorists as pawns, is it not the time that the UK had its own, truly ethical foreign policy?”
Ms Williams asked: “The last government offered to take up to 3,000 unaccompanied chip refugees from Europe. The offer was recently withdrawn. If elected, would members work with Safe Passage UK and Citizens UK to meet that pledge?”
All the panelist responded to all the questions, and members of the public were encouraged to respond to the answers from the floor, leading to some fascinating conversations around the questions asked.
Two memorable responses were from an economist, who destroyed the idea of a surplus in the budget, saying that if the government were to run a surplus, the debt would pass to individuals in a country.
Another attendee quoted economist Richard Murphy who has calculated the borrowing and repayment of debt of the last seventy years of governments to show that the Conservative governments have borrowed more and repaid less than Labour governments since 1946/47.
You can view the whole hustings on our website: southhams-today.co.uk, where we have noted the time on the video of each question, and each answer, so you can find the information you are most interested in.
Timings for the video:
SWollaston 10.10, GMesser 11.38, JHodgson 13.15, JBrazil 14.45
1st Question: Terrorism
Robert Hodgson - 17.34
JH 18.03, SW 19.26, JB 21.04, GM 23.07
2nd Question: National Deficit
Richard Hosking - 28.34
SW 29.08, GM 30.06, JH 30.40, JB 33.58
3rd Question: Education Cuts
Alison Caudwell - 42.40
JB 43.10, JH 44.31, GM 47.08, SW 49.10
4th Question: Brexit
Arthur Durant - 62.15
GM 62.45, JB 63.52, SW 66.35, JH 69.33
5th Question: The NHS
Samantha Gothard - 1.15.42
JB 75.57, JH 78.30, GM 80.26, SW 82.49
6th & 7th Question: Arms Sales & Refugees
Mark Elcardie - 91.13
Alison Williams - 92.01
JB 92.36, SW 84.01, 97.10, GM 99.30
SW 92.36, JH 101.54, JB 102.44, GM 103.33