The parliamentary candidates for Bournemouth East battled out a hustings at Moordown Baptist Church on Wednesday evening, chaired by member of the church John Rosser.
The prospective MP candidates for Bournemouth East are Tobias Ellwood (Conservatives), Jon Nicholas (Liberal Democrats), Alasdair Keddie (Greens) and David Hughes (UKIP). In addition David Stokes, the Labour candidate for Bournemouth West stood in for his brother and Bournemouth East candidate Peter Stokes who was unable to attend.
Since the current constituency for Bournemouth East was created, the seat has been in the hands of Tories and till the dissolution of Parliament at the end of March, Tobias Ellwood represented the constituency. Ellwood has been holding the seat for the past ten years and in General Elections 2010 he gained 48.4 % of all of the votes. Yet this hasn’t scared the rival candidates who are eager to challenge the Conservative majority.
The big questions of the night were more national issues, including austerity, rising poverty, how to tackle climate change and what will the likely hung Parliament look like.
As the prospective candidates for Labour and Conservative seemed rather convinced there will be no hung Parliament because their party will win the overall majority, the rest of the candidates claimed to have a more realistic take on the issue. “The question is rather how hung will Parliament be”, UKIP’s David Hughes summed up, an audience member cheered back “well hung”. However Labour’s David Stokes did not seem convinced and he ruled out any possibility that Labour would enter coalition with Scottish National Party since the SNP ‘wants to split this country’.
Alasdair Keddie from the Green party highlighted how there’s severe issues in Bournemouth East, for example there’s the highest levels of social deprivation in the whole country. Keddie reminded the audience that Bournemouth Borough Council’s budget has been cut by 50% and indicated that the problems will only grow.
Since the hustings were organised by the Baptist Church, topics closely linked with religious values such as same-sex marriage entered the discussion. Whereas the other candidates were a lot more supporting towards gay marriage, UKIP’s David Hughes said he is completely against this disastrous law. When saying he could go on about it, an audience member lost her temper and shouted: “Please don’t, sit down!”.
Another controversial topic that came up was the Navitus Bay wind farm project. Conservatives Tobias Ellwood said that Bournemouth was a wrong place for a wind farm because of tourism. On the contrary Labours David Stokes made a strong stance supporting Navitus Bay and saying there’s been a lot of propaganda against the wind farm.
The debate got even more heated when the discussion turned into zero-hours contracts. Ellwood emphasised how zero-hours contract can give a great freedom for students since they can decide whether they want to work or not. Liberal Democrats Jon Nicholas attacked him saying that people who are happy with zero-hours contracts are like unicorns – he hasn’t seen one or spoken one yet. Alasdair Keddie also confronted Ellwood by saying these contracts only give you slavery not freedom.
In the end of the debate chaos was guaranteed when member of the audience, David Ross interrupted the speaker declaring that he had been denied the opportunity to take part in the debate. Ross is standing as a prospective candidate for Bournemouth Independent Alliance.
In response, Conservatives Tobias Ellwood pleaded that next time around every standing candidate for the constituency should be invited. It’s debatable if this was a sincere act of solidarity or perhaps an attempt to brush up his image after Ellwood was put into a corner following his comments about zero-hours contract.
The Parliamentary seat for Bournemouth East might indeed stay in the hands of Conservatives. What is sure is that the rival candidates are not afraid to challenge this scenario and this became clear at the hustings.