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Shrewsbury candidates clash over Brexit, hospitals and environment at hustings

Shrewsbury | General Election 2019 | Published:

Shrewsbury's prospective parliamentary candidates clashed over Brexit, hospitals and the environment at a hustings event this week.

Five people hoping to represent Shrewsbury and Atcham after the general election on December 12 all appeared at the Shrewsbury Colleges Group's London Road campus last night.

They were asked questions submitted by the audience, which included about 200 members of the public.

The candidates included Conservative Daniel Kawczynski, who has held the seat since 2005; Labour candidate Dr Julia Buckley; Nat Green of the Liberal Democrats; the Green Party's Julian Dean; and independent Hannah Locke.

All of the candidates had two minutes at the start of the evening to set out their election plans.

Mr Kawczynski used his opening statement to criticise Labour and the Lib Dems' stances on Brexit.

A question for Brexiteer Mr Kawczynski from a man calling himself 'Rob' said simply: "What is so wrong about the EU?"

The candidate said in response that the EU is heading towards being a "super-national state" with "power removed from sovereign states".

He also pointed out that Shrewsbury voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, though Dr Buckley said that it was one of the closest calls in the country.

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She asked the audience to "vote for change, a fresh voice and a fresh face".

Brexit

She was asked: "Will Labour campaign for Leave or Remain?"

Dr Buckley answered: "Labour's position is not about winning or losing. Not the extreme of revoking a democratic vote or the extreme of a hard Brexit."

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She said that Labour would offer a new Brexit deal and a 'final say' referendum and said: "You can't keep looking for winners or losers, you need to find consensus.

"We will not tell you what to think, we will not tell you you are wrong or you are stupid."

Mr Kawczynski said that the country has a trade deficit with the EU and a trade surplus with the USA.

He also said: "We need to control immigration because that's what the British people want."

Mr Green disagreed with Dr Buckley's assertion that a policy of remain was an "extreme position".

Earlier he said that membership of the EU had benefited Shrewsbury, and said: "The Liberal Democrats are here to keep us in the EU and we're proud about it."

The Green candidate Julian Dean accepted that the Greens would not form a government but said that his party was leading the others on environmental policies.

He said: "[A vote for the Greens] is a vote to say there is one absolutely enormous priority and that's the climate emergency.

"Every extra vote for the Greens puts pressure on the other parties."

He later said that the climate emergency was replacing immigration as people's main concern.

"The reason you can't get a GP appointment is not because of immigration," he said. "The scourge of in-work poverty, that is not because of immigration.

"I think people are starting to realise that."

'Young deserve a vote'

Hannah Locke, who is running as an independent at the age of 18, would be the youngest MP to ever sit in Parliament were she to win.

She acknowledged that she has "a lot to learn" but would "learn from those [she] serves" in the interests of Shrewsbury's communities.

On the EU, she said that people who were unable to vote in the referendum three years ago but now qualify "deserve to have a vote".

She also said: "Are we so desperate to counter immigration, to push people away that need our help, that we want to crash out of the EU?"

Mr Kawczynski, meanwhile, said that he has been threatened in the street for his politics and warned that "name-calling and anger" is "seeping through into politics".

But he also said that he has met several "traditional Labour voters" who have told him they will vote Conservative this year to "get Brexit done".

Dr Buckley said it was encouraging to see Miss Locke standing as a representative of young engagement in politics.

She agreed that "aggression" should be kept out of politics.

The Conservative and Labour representatives both answered questions on the Prime Ministerial ambitions of their party leaders, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn respectively.

Mr Kawczynski said: "I have every confidence in Mr Johnson. I think he's a man of great intellect, great vision, and he's going to get Brexit done."

Dr Buckley encouraged people to look beyond the two party leaders, saying "in Shrewsbury and Atcham it is a two-horse race between Mr Daniel Kawczynski and Dr Julia Buckley".

Mr Green was also asked about his party leader, Jo Swinson. Master of ceremonies Ed Marshall asked if she was being realistic in aspiring to be Prime Minister.

The Liberal Democrat said: "Women in politics are held to a different standard than men. When a woman says she wants to be Prime Minister she's looked down on as being inexperienced.

"Tony Blair wasn't very old, I think he was 41. There's only two years in it." He praised Mrs Swinson's "strong position" on Brexit.

Hospitals

The county's hospitals and the Future Fit plan were discussed.

Mr Kawczynski said that 300 doctors and surgeons favoured the Future Fit model of re-allocating the county's hospital provision.

But Mr Dean of the Greens said that in light of the "appalling" report into maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital trust that was leaked this week the doctors "are not people for us to trust".

Dr Buckley said that the NHS "literally cannot survive another winter under this government".

A Labour government would invest in both infrastructure and staff in the NHS, she said.

Mr Green said: "The NHS would not survive without workers from the EU."

Asked what he would do for Shropshire businesses, Mr Kawczynski said: "Reducing taxation, particularly for low rate workers, is very important.

"Unemployment has fallen down to levels we haven't seen since 1972."

He said that Labour's "hardcore socialists" would "destroy the economy" if elected.

Environment

The candidates were all asked their position on the climate emergency.

Miss Locke said: "Nationally we have to do something, we don't have the time not to act now."

"Soon we won't be able to go back on it."

She called for more recycling initiatives and suggested improving and encouraging the use of public transport.

Mr Dean said that if green initiatives are not pursued soon, "we are screwed".

He said that money must be spent but that the outcome would be "a better world".

Mr Green said he would like Shropshire to be carbon neutral by 2030.

"It's a tough target but that's what targets are meant to be," he said.

"What we want to do is have all low income households be insulated by 2025."

Dr Buckley said economic policy should be "grounded in how we tackle the environment".

She said Labour wanted to create a million new jobs to build a "new green infrastructure".

Mr Kawczynski said the country is reducing carbon emissions faster than the EU and the G20.

"In a globally competitive world we are trying to reduce CO2 emissions as quickly as possible," he said.

A question near the end of the hustings noted that there were only a handful of under-30s in the audience.

Shrewsbury Business Chamber chair Val Edwards thanked everyone who attended, as well as Shrewsbury College for hosting the event.

She also urged the audience to use their right to vote, and encourage friends and family.

Students from the college prepared hot drinks and cakes for the audience.

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