A hustings event ahead of the general election for the Buckingham parliamentary constituency took place at St Laurence’s Church in Winslow yesterday evening (Monday).
Present for the event were candidates Greg Smith (Conservative), David Morgan (Labour), Stephen Dorrell (Liberal Democrat), Andrew Bell (Brexit Party) and Antonio Vitiello (English Democrats).
The independent candidate Ned Thompson was not present.
The hustings was moderated by the rector of St Laurence's Church Andrew Lightbown, and started with all candidates addressing the audience, of around 250 people, with opening statements.
Liberal Democrat Stephen Dorrell said he was in favour of East West Rail but against the Expressway because he believed it was a ‘national project imposed on the community.’
He added that he had previously voted in favour of HS2 but said that the project needed a ‘rethink’ citing improved train control technology and the cost of HS2.
Andrew Bell from the Brexit Party claimed that figures showed that the majority of Anglicans and Catholics voted for Brexit and added that ‘we must carry out the verdict of the people.’
David Morgan from Labour said this election was about ‘vision and values.’
He pledged that he would not seek ministerial office and said he would be dedicated to ‘representing you and holding the Government, even a Labour one, to account.’
Conservative Greg Smith said Parliament was ‘totally deadlocked’.
Speaking about the Expressway, he said he was delighted that he was able to ‘shift his party’s policy’ following a meeting with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
He added that he wanted to ‘respect the 2016 referendum and get Brexit done.’
Antonio Vitiello from the English Democrats said that he ‘strongly opposed cultural Marxism’ and believed that ‘even if the truth is inconvenient, it is still the truth.’
The hustings then moved on to a question and answer session.
Questions were taken from the audience about borrowing, spending plans, renting, climate change, personal v party politics, the UK’s relationship with the world and the voting age.
On the question of Government borrowing Mr Morgan referenced a document on the Labour Party website which had the party’s costing plan, adding that ‘borrowing if used to invest is a good business idea.’
Mr Smith blamed the 2008 crash on the public sector debt that he claimed was ‘built-up by the Blair-Brown Government’ and claimed the country’s debt position was ‘under a greater level of control’ now.
Mr Vitiello said no money should be given to the European Union and the 1972 European Communities Act should be repealed.
Mr Bell said ‘all parties wanted to spend more’ but that he was ‘staggered’ by the spending plans of the main parties.
Mr Dorrell said public services should be looked at as a whole and that it was the job of politicians to raise taxes if necessary in order to have sufficient funds to support public services.
On the question of spending plans, Mr Morgan referenced the document available on the Labour website that set out costings and also criticised the Conservative Party’s lack of investment in education and health.
Mr Dorrell referenced ‘broken promises’ from previous Governments describing spending as an ‘unsolved problem that the Conservatives are still not addressing.’
Mr Bell said the Brexit Party’s spending was not ‘particularly high’ in comparison to other parties.
Mr Smith said his party took ‘public health services seriously and had committed to a long term plan for the NHS’.
He also refuted claims of a ‘clawback’ by the Conservative Party and refuted the suggestion that personal taxation needed to increase.
Mr Vitiello said his party supported ‘no taxation without representation.’
On the question of how people could be helped to get their own homes or rent property, Mr Smith said there was a need to build more homes in the country but that care needed to be taken over where they were built.
He claimed developments needed to have ‘a good mix’ of housing.
Mr Morgan said ‘market forces would not solve everything’ and that ‘good planning, making provision for everybody and ensuring things were not developer-led’ were the ways to help the housing situation.
Mr Bell said there had to be ‘a mixed solution’ to the issue.
Mr Dorrell said there was ‘no single, silver bullet and no ‘solution that could be dreamed up by an official in Whitehall to resolve problems everywhere.’
Mr Vitiello said he believed there was a need to ‘move with the times.’
On the question of climate change, Mr Vitiello said he believed it was part of ‘a natural cycle’ and that ‘worrying about it was part of the problem not the solution.’
Mr Smith described it as ‘the biggest threat to the world’ right now and described 2050 as a ‘reasonable target’ saying we should not ‘rush into solutions.’
Mr Morgan said ‘time will run out’ and cited that councils across Bucks had already declared climate emergencies.
He added that things needed to be done before 2030 and stated ‘we must act now.’
Mr Bell described CO2 as ‘incredibly insignificant’ and said there was no ‘climate emergency.’
Mr Dorrell said he believed in ‘listening to the scientists’ and added he believed it was a ‘core responsibility’ for the Government to change the way it behaved around the issue of climate change.
All candidates were then asked three closing questions - one about the country’s relationship with the world, one about voting age and one about the issue of personal views versus political preferences.
Mr Dorrell said after any decisions MPs had to be able to stand up in front of their constituents and justify how their vote was in the best interests of those who elected them.
He described democracy as a dialogue between the Government and the people, but added that he hoped that in 2020 there would be a second referendum where the decision of 2016 would be reversed.
Mr Bell said he hoped that going forward the UK would enjoy a future as a ‘free trade nation’.
He said the result of the 2016 referendum should be honoured and added that on the personal v party issue ‘constituents come first on local issues’ and ‘manifestos should be followed’ on national issues.
Mr Morgan issued a rallying cry saying the future was ‘your choice’ and that the consequences of leaving the EU would be ‘disastrous.’
He claimed the UK already ‘punched above its weight in the EU’.
He added that local MPs should ‘speak up for you’ but should always ‘explain themselves.’
Mr Smith said he hoped the UK would have a majority Conservative Government and that a ‘fantastic free trade deal would be negotiated.’
He added that if the result of the 2016 referendum was not honoured it would be the ultimate ‘breaking of trust.’
He repeated his claim that the Expressway was ‘a dead project’ and concluded that ‘MPs must remember they are the servants of people, not the masters.’
Mr Vitiello explained that he had previously been a member of UKIP and changed his allegiances to the English Democrats two weeks ago because he would ‘not have got his papers signed in time’ to stand for UKIP.
He said he believed that ‘smaller parties are more free to represent people’ and added that where we would be in 2021 would depend on ‘what time of Brexit we get.’
All candidates were then invited to give closing statements.
Mr Dorrell (Lib Dem) said this election would be remembered as the one that either ‘gave or denied Boris Johnson a majority.’
Mr Bell (Brexit) said the UK would be ‘the new Elizabethans’ and that he wanted ‘to see a high productivity and high growth economy.’
Mr Morgan (Lab) encouraged people to vote for him and Labour to get ‘real change.’
Mr Smith (Con) said he wanted to be ‘a locally-focused MP’ and added he was ‘scared of what Labour would do for the country.’
Mr Vitiello (Eng Dem) said he wanted a ‘proper Brexit’ and not what he called a BRINO (Brexit in name only).