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General Election 2019: South East Cambridgeshire candidates face off at Waterbeach hustings

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All four candidates for South East Cambridgeshire faced off in a lively hustings lasting almost two hours and covering a range of issues.

At the South East Cambridgeshire hustings are, seated, from left, James Bull (Labour), Pippa Heylings (Liberal Democrats), host John Elworthy, Lucy Frazer (Conservative) and Edmund Fordham (Independent), Picture: Local Democracy Reporter Ben Hatton (23643575)
At the South East Cambridgeshire hustings are, seated, from left, James Bull (Labour), Pippa Heylings (Liberal Democrats), host John Elworthy, Lucy Frazer (Conservative) and Edmund Fordham (Independent), Picture: Local Democracy Reporter Ben Hatton (23643575)

Conservative Lucy Frazer, who is hoping to hold on to her seat, Labour’s James Bull, Liberal Democrat Pippa Heylings and independent Edmund Fordham all took part in the event hosted in the Waterbeach Baptist Church, chaired by John Elworthy.

Thursday’s event (December 5) started with a one-minute silence to remember and pay respect to the Cambridge graduates killed in the London Bridge attack, Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt.

The candidates answered questions on everything from honesty in politics, public services and spending, toeing the party line and what they would do for young people.

The organisers said that of the almost 60 questions submitted, only one related to Brexit.

Three of the candidates stated explicit opposition to plans from Amey for a waste incinerator, with Dr Fordham offering a more qualified opposition, saying “it doesn’t sound like Waterbeach is a good place for it”.

Pippa Heylings was challenged on the amount of Liberal Democrat campaign literature residents have received, with one person claiming 21 of the 24 political leaflets they had received were from Ms Heylings.

“When we get the regulation of the far right press which is spewing out every single day, when we regulate that, because that is what is campaigning every single day, and fuelling the xenophobia and hate, and the campaign against immigration, I think we do need to challenge it,” Ms Heylings responded.

Each candidate was asked whether or not they would simply toe the party line, with the audience particularly interested in Conservative Lucy Frazer’s response.

The prisons minister responded by suggesting politics is “a little bit like football”.

“When you’re in a football team and you disagree with the coach, you go and tell the coach what you disagree with and you try and change the tactics of the team.

“What you don’t do is go on the pitch and score for the other side. There are many things that I don’t always agree with my party on. We are a broad church, I hope, and I don’t always agree with everything, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t raise those points internally,” she said, adding she had already mentioned some examples in the evening, such as school funding.

“So yes, if you look at my voting record, you may say she toes the party line,” she acknowledged, which was met by jeers from audience.

She was then asked by the chair, John Elworthy, if she had ever voted against the party or if there was any issue where she would.

“I always say you take issues as you find them,” Ms Frazer said, but added: “If you vote for me – some people say they are voting for me but most people are voting for the party.”

Labour candidate James Bull was asked to comment on the need to control spending, with the questioner suggesting new Labour ruined the public finances.

Mr Bull defended his party’s record, saying the financial crisis started in America and “hit nearly every developed nation on Earth,” arguing Britain was “particularly hard hit because our economy is built around financial services”.

“How will we pay for our promises? It’s very simple,” he suggested. “Up to £25billion a year is lost through tax evasion and tax avoidance by billionaires, tax dodgers, multinational corporations and the rest.”

Ms Frazer said Labour “always overspends” and said austerity was necessary because of the “mess” they inherited.

Ms Heylings said she was surprised there are “magic money trees appearing on both sides”.

Dr Fordham said: “The government does not have any money of its own.” He added that it either borrows it or raises it through taxes, and argued he was “quite weary of big spending promises because it is basically bribing people with their own money”.

Organiser Clare Wilson said afterwards that the hustings had been “brilliant” and said she thought all the candidates were “interesting and respectful”.

“I think we got a real flavour of what they stand for,” she said.

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