THERE was fierce debate on Monday night as the four candidates vying to be the next Cotswold MP faced the public at a hustings.
Candidates came face to face at Cirencester Baptist Church for a Question Time style session with a lively audience.
Incumbent MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Conservative), Liz Webster (Liberal Democrat), Alan Mackenzie (Labour) and Sabrina Poole (Green) stated their case and took questions.
Sir Geoffrey grew frustrated throughout the evening as hecklers repeatedly interrupted his answers, and at one point he told a member of the audience ‘You can call me useless if you want but it’s like water off a duck’s back’.
Host for the evening was baptist minister Matt Frost, who kickstarted the event by allowing each candidate to deliver a four minute statement.
Then followed an hour of questions for the candidates from the audience on topics including Brexit, climate change, social care, the NHS, Russia and Donald Trump, affordable housing and farming in the Cotswolds.
Each candidate then had 90 seconds at the end of the night to say why voters should vote for them.
During the session, Labour’s Alan Mackenzie said he would put the community first.
“Politics has lost the way in some respects,” he said.
“I stand because I think politics has moved far away from where it should be, which is you.
“I stand because I believe we need to go back to the basics, communities need to come first, residents need to come first.
“I have seen teenagers who are homeless, I have seen an increase in foodbank use in the Cotswolds, our hospitals have reduced its opening hours, this is just not good enough.
“I want to put the community first, my vision is to go out to listen, work with all the community groups, towns, councils, work with everybody to bring people together.”
Green Party candidate Sabrina Poole stated during her opening speech that ‘the next 10 years are the most important in our global history’.
She said: “A vote for our green new deal would transform the UK, tackle the climate emergency in time, and simultaneously address pressing social and economic problems.
“We currently only have Caroline Lucas in Parliament but we would love to have more.
“More Green MPs would really make a difference and actually get some action.
“The choices we make now matter more than even before.
“The climate emergency is affecting us now.
“The UK needs a big new start, and if not now when?”
Lib Dem candidate Liz Webster only came into politics recently since the shock of the referendum in 2016.
“Honesty is missing and that is very frightening,” she said.
“We deserve better than these two tired old parties stuck in the past (Labour and the Conservatives), their ideas want to take us back to the past.
“I am committed to change the voting system and bring it into line with the rest of Europe.
“This is a lucky constituency, we don’t have many of the problems that others constituencies have.
“But, what has happened to the roads, why are our schools suffering?
“I can offer you a fighting spirit, I am committed and I would love the opportunity to serve you all.”
And following what he said had been a ‘dreadful’ three years in Parliament, Conservative candidate Sir Geoffrey said he wanted to see his party achieve a majority.
“My priorities are to recruit more nurses and doctors in the NHS, and I want to see more money put in the NHS,” he said.
“I want to see a good number of houses built in the constituency.
“I have obtained a huge increase in funding for education so the schools up and down this country so our schools will benefit.
“The further education sector will also benefit which it hasn’t done in years.”
Mr Frost said of the evening: “Courteous, argumentative, rowdy, thoughtful – well done to the candidates and the audience for a lively debate that will hopefully help us make an informed decision on December 12.”
For full coverage from the evening see the WGS Facebook page.