DEMOCRACY was in action in Chichester this evening (May 6) as voters turned out to hear what their six MP hopefuls had to say.
In a packed-out Chichester Cathedral, candidates went head to head answering a number of questions submitted by the public, watched over by cathedral dean Stephen Waine.
Topics ranged from climate change and fracking to the NHS and mental health provision. A long discussion centred around affordable housing and the right-to-buy scheme. As the debate drew to a close, a question from Bishop Luffa head teacher Nick Taunt turned the panel to discussing the cuts to the education budget.
Patria’s Andrew Emerson, Labour’s Mark Farwell, UKIP’s Andrew Moncreiff, the Greens’ Jasper Richmond, Lib Dem Andrew Smith and Conservative Andrew Tyrie all had their moment in the limelight at the start of the evening at 7pm to speak about why they felt they should be elected.
Mr Emerson’s speech focused on immigration, which he called to be scrapped for anyone without British heritage, saying Britons were becoming ‘a minority in our own country’.
He also attacked what he said was ‘a media that’s still hostile to any real patriotism on the part of the English’.
Following Mr Emerson’s opening, Mr Farwell pointed both barrels at the coalition government, saying it had resulted in ‘abject failure’ for the country during its five years in power.
“They’ve doubled the debt and they’ve not even reached the halfway point of dealing with the deficit,” he said. “And in the intervening period of course millions of people have suffered and more importantly the burden of recovery hasn’t been shared by all.”
UKIP’s Andrew Moncreiff said he joined the party ten years ago and it had five core principles it would enact if it came to power: only a democratically-elected body should make the laws for free-trading with the rest of the world, secondly the protection of borders and citizens, thirdly managing the country’s finances responsibly, fourthly having better immigration control, and finally the only law in Britain would be British law.
“We believe that only our democratically-elected parliaments should make our laws or run our country and we think that’s fundamental,” he said.
Mr Richmond followed for the Green Party and rattled through a number of points: an end to zero-hours contracts, a higher minimum wage, protecting the environment and the economy and much more.
“The environment is not something that is separate from everything else the government does,” he said.
“If you think the economy is more important than the environment then try counting your money while holding your breath.”
The Liberal Democrat’s Andrew Smith took a stand against nationalism, saying all over the world it was ‘rearing its ugly head’.
“Whether it’s the SNP in Scotland, UKIP, the National Front in France or Putin in Russia,” he said. “Nationalism feeds off grievance, ignorance and fear. It fuels enmity, conflict and intolerance, which is the antithesis of liberalism.
“And as Liberal Democrats we exist to build a fair, free and open society , in which we seek to balance the fundamental freedoms of liberty, equality and community and in which no one shall be stained by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”
Last in the alphabet was Andrew Tyrie, the man who has been the constituency’s member of parliament since 1997.
“I’ve had a very interesting month,” he said. I’ve learned a great deal from knocking on hundreds of doors and having many many conversations, some of them with people in the cathedral tonight and some of those conversations have been with people with whom I’ve been corresponding about problems they’ve had for a number of years.”
He said he hoped his record as an MP would stand him in good favour to look after Chichester’s interests, mentioning the campaign to improve the A27 and protect A&E at St Richard’s Hospital during his most recent period in office.
Polls are open from 7am-10pm on May 7. Keep checking the Observer’s website for the latest coverage and for more stories from the hustings.