Hustings

Calypso Newman, Lower Sixth, writes: The hustings for the Oxford West and Abingdon constituency took place at St Edward’s on Thursday 30th April with around 400 people from Summertown present.  Candidates from all the different political parties came for the discussion chaired by Mr Fletcher: the incumbent Nicola Blackwoood (Conservative), Sally Copley (Labour), Layla Moran (Liberal Democrat), Larry Sanders (Green), Helen Salisbury (National Health Action party) and Adam Buick (representing the Socialist party candidate Mike Foster). As each candidate got through their opening statements the conflict of political views between all the parties became clear. Nicola Blackwood’s view, for instance, that “stability of the economy means stability in society” contrasted with that of Adam Buick who claimed that the current state of the economy necessitated a “revolution in the basis of society.” This was a notable example of the different political mind-sets on show at the event. Alliances were struck on the political battlefield between National Health Action party candidate Helen Salisbury and Green party candidate Larry Sanders. Salisbury claimed that, other than the NHA party, the Green party is the only party which actually plans to do enough to rescue the NHS. Tension was evident on the floor between Nicola Blackwood and Layla Moran the Liberal Democrat candidate. Blackwood, in her opening statement, had claimed that the Liberal Democrat team had been spreading rumours that she was too ill to stand. She vehemently denied this. Moran countered by claiming no knowledge of such rumours – but made it clear that she would not condone such tactics. This minor awkwardness allowed for a discussion of the NHS as the hot topic of the evening and all six leaders agreed to the extent that “it needs more money.” “More money” ranged from £8 billion to some far larger figures – but how to achieve this? Perhaps not with “world socialism”. The SNP, despite their lack of participation in the election in seats in southern England, were mentioned and were described by socialist Buick as “as left wing as Labour” – a phrase which is not commonly heard.  Labour candidate Sally Copley, like the other three main party leaders, spoke very well, providing a far more balanced view of the left. Reassuring the audience that we were not in Russia in the 1920s, she spoke on repealing the “dreadful” Health and Social Care Act and how leaving the EU would be disastrous. Blackwood had a different view on this saying the relationship with the EU needed to be renegotiated, but that we do benefit from it, and she would campaign to stay in. Mr Fletcher’s chairing allowed for fluidity between candidates who were extremely well prepared and completely set in motion the type of role they would take on for the constituency in Parliament. Of course no husting would be complete without some good aggressive heckling which we were not short of. The abuse was mainly directed at Layla for “representing the wrong party.”  In the words of Churchill who said “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter” I would like to disagree and say this cannot be said for the residents of Oxford West and Abingdon who attended the hustings and who asked informative questions and agreed/ disagreed with the messages of the candidates. The biggest shame of the evening was the fact that I am unable to vote.

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