Students quiz Colchester candidates at University hustings

The University of Essex hosted a hustings event on the 9th December, giving people a chance to ask the Colchester candidates about their policies. Ella Morley was at the event.

If you missed the Hustings event at Ivore Crew centre on Monday night, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Wondering what a Hustings is? Well, it is an event which happens during the election campaign where a representative (in our case, Colchester’s candidates) from each political party give speeches, take part in debate, and answer any questions the audience may have, and they had plenty!

If you’re unsure which party to vote for on December 12th, this article will give you an idea of what each party stands for so that you can make the right decision. Attending the event was Liberal Democrat Martin Goss, Mark Goacher representing the Green Party and Tina McKay for Labour.

Will Quince, the Conservative candidate decided not to show up to the university hustings event, the host for the event even joked that it would have been “masochism” for him to attend. After contacting Quince he cared to give a comment:

“[University of Essex] was not in my constituency and [the event was] too close to Polling day where I had other priorities. I was not offered the chance to send a representative. There have been three local Hustings. My literature should have been delivered to every student living in the Colchester constituency. My number and email is on the literature for those with any questions.”

Maybe a bit too eager to hear what the candidates had to present, I arrived half an hour early to an auditorium with only 3 other people in it. Sharing the silence and wondering how many people would show up, I began contemplating what would happen on Decemeber 12th. Footsteps echoed throughout the empty room as people from all different types of life began to flow in. Students, parents and older folk began to settle in for the debates.

The Hustings began with each candidate giving an overview of their parties and their priorities when it comes to certain issues. Martin Goss starts everything off with speaking about putting an end to drug dealing and knife crime as “crime has increased by 105%”. He is also committed to reviewing funding at the university and tuition fees as he believes that “education is a right for all”.

Mark Goacher followed with declaring that this election is “not just a Brexit election … nothing is more important than the climate crisis”. He also touches on the bio-diversity crisis and austerity.”

Finally, Tina McKay begins by saying that “We [Labour] are the only ones who offer real change [and will] put you first every time.” She says she will bring change to the NHS by looking at nurses’ bursaries, doctors training and the mental health sector. She also mentioned sorting cuts to police force, housing for the homeless, and change for the environment and tuition fees.

The Colchester candidates; Martin Goss (left), Mark Goacher (middle) and Tina McKay (right).

Following introductions came the Q&A segment of Hustings, where people had the opportunity for the mic and have their questions asked and answered.  

Q1: What is your party’s stance on Brexit?

Goacher: “Green will be Remain, getting Brexit done is only the start. Brexit is already damaging the country and it doesn’t make sense, it is a foolish idea.”

Goss: “Lib Dem has always campaigned for Remain. We will put the vote back to the people. I have found no MP who can explain the deal. We will explain it to you. There will be no rubbish on the side of buses and lies people were told. People don’t even know that the 2016 Referendum vote wasn’t even legally binding, it was advisory.”

McKay: “We need to get Brexit sorted but at no expense of getting it right. Labour are neutral and will get a credible deal and give people the final choice.”

Q2: What would you do about climate change?

McKay:“[Labour] have been told we have the best climate plan in our manifesto, it is the most fantastic policy we have. I recommend you to look at it.”

Goacher: “[Green Party] want to introduce a carbon tax, insulate every home, solar power for every home and get people on bikes. We will not expand the airports or build new roads. Our manifesto is the most radical.”

Goss: “Something has to happen in the next 10 years, [Liberal Democrats] want to ban single use plastic by 2023, plant 60 million trees a year and have zero carbon homes by 2021 [as well as] introduce a carbon tax.”

Q3: What would you do to reform the bus services?

Goacher: “It is in our manifesto, we have 8 bus services in Colchester that are not regulated, and services are disappearing from the rural areas of Colchester. We need to re-regulate the bus services and we need a massive investment in bus services. We need to make them electric for starters, so they are not churning out pollution but also make sure they are more reliable.”

McKay: “When you have anything that is run for profit, whether it is a service or a public service […] what we’re looking at is the making of profit. Labour would allow our council to run its own bus service which would ensure that we can set prices; that it is more reliable, cheaper and more frequent. What we have committed to in our manifesto is to give under 25s free access to council-run bus services.”

Goss: “[We want to] de-regulate and allow councils to do what they did back in the 1980s when Colchester Borough Council did run the bus company. It is about making buses greener, electric and affordable. At the moment, for a family of four to travel, it is cheaper for them to drive and park than it is to get on the bus. Bus companies need to bring in more family pricing and friendlier prices for students as well.”

Q4: Given the violent crimes on the rise, what would you do to make women feel safer walking around at night?

Goss: “Every citizen in Colchester should feel safe and therefore we need to ensure that the investment is there, not just in policing but in all of the other public services and make sure they work together. We need to make sure there is a joined-up approach to all of our public services, particularly around public safety.”

Goalcher: “We need to invest in all the support services that go hand-in-hand with crime, but also on the wider issue of how the system treats women. Evidence shows that prison is counter-productive to women so therefore we will support the creation of a network of specialist women centres in order to reduce the female prison population. In terms of crime against women, we need to understand it better and prioritise treating it sensitively and that means investment in support services.”

McKay: “Essentially what we’re talking about is dignity, equality and respect and ensuring that that is not just within the systems that we have in the nation, but in how we treat each other. As a woman, I don’t feel safe at times in Colchester and that is to do with how we have limited street lighting in the evenings and the poor leadership of the nation. [Nothing has happened] with the way that the Prime Minister has spoken about [women and other vunerable communities]. What does that say to the ordinary person on how to treat women?”

Q5: How are you going to represent students and how will you create a better relationship between Colchester town and the university?

Goacher: “We need to build as many links as possible with the student community. In terms of student issues, my view on tuition fees, for example, is that they need to be written off. I think it’s outrageous that my generation inflicted what [has been] inflicted on [students] in terms of debt.”

Goss: “It’s about reversing Brexit and the damage which has been caused by Brexit on universities related to the uncertainty. It’s about reviewing how universities are funded. We as representatives need to ensure we have more visits to the universities, that we hold more forums like this and ensure that your voices are heard […] whether it is about education, crime [or] more local issues.”

McKay: “The university fees of course do need to be removed. We also need to make access to housing and employment much easier. As someone who is the child of migrants, I think we need to champion the diversity which is within Colchester. The communities that I have spoken to have spoken of feeling unsafe and unrepresented and not being able to participate in the activity of the town and we need to be more proactive about promoting that. We also need to link the student body to the town and try and integrate the student population within the town itself.”

After being in the hotseat for the last hour and a half, the event ended with the opportunity to go and speak to each candidate. There were an overwhelming people waiting to speak to Tina McKay and many stayed behind to chat about the election and any personal issues they may be facing.

Audience members were able to speak to the candidates personally at the end of the event.

The first hustings the university hosted was on 6th December which was focused on the North Essex and Harwich constituency.

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