European Election Hustings 1st May 2014
At Luton Sixth Form College on the 1st May 2014 a special hustings event was put on for all students to go to in order to see who would be up for election in what would be, for those students who were eligible, their first opportunity to vote. This would be for the European Parliament Elections on the 22nd May.
Conservative Party– Margaret Simons, MEP Candidate
Green Party– Marc Scheimann, MEP Candidate
Labour Party– Chris Ostrowski, MEP Candidate
Liberal Democrat Party– Linda Jack, MEP Candidate
UKIP– Daniel Jukes, Representative and Young Independence Officer
The event was chaired by the college’s very own David Dimbleby, Reece Francis who kept the panellists in line when things got a little heated.
In their opening statements the candidates gave a background to their parties policies and aims for Europe, a hot discussion recently having seen Nick Clegg make a fool of himself again after challenging Nigel Farage to a debate on EU membership. Simons, said that whilst she loved Europe it was a concern that a majority of our laws were made there and followed the Tory spiel that they had promised a referendum on European Union membership should they be elected to Parliament in 2015. Jukes of UKIP said that his party were the only party who could effectively control the UK borders and could put British people first in terms of housing and jobs, two of the most important topics which voters consider. The Green Party policy was to have totally open borders with free movement of labour for all whilst Ostrowski, of Labour, claimed that it would be the Labour Party who could make globalisation fair. Linda Jack of the Liberal Democrats said that it would continue to be policy of the Lib Dems to stay in Europe due to the sheer amount of jobs which come and have many close links with Europe.
Candidates were asked the key questions about immigration and the referendum which had been promised by the Tories and UKIP. A question directly relating to the AS-Level exam that many of the students present will be undertaking shortly after the election about whether a system of PR (proportional representation) which is the system used for the European Parliament elections should be used in Westminster. Panellists raised questions about how personal using the same ‘list’ system which is used in EU elections as, rather than voting for a candidate a party is voted for. However, whilst the system is fairer the chances of stable government reduce somewhat.
A question from the audience about how parties would tackled far-right and xenophobic groups raised a heated discussion. Jukes, of UKIP put forward that his party were the only party who asked on their membership forms whether the applicant had ever been a member of the BNP or EDL or other far-right groups. When asked from the audience if this was due to the close links that several UKIP local candidates had with the BNP a minor fuss was made in which Jukes reinforced that UKIP were not ‘the BNP in suits’, and believed that Labour had closer links to the BNP even though, as Chris Ostrowski pointed out, the Labour Party had led many campaigns against fascist groups.
A question on the environment, another hot topic for EU elections was raised from the floor and whether the UK should take part in fracking. The Green candidate, Marc Scheimann said that we should not become a fracking nation and he supported the Green MP Caroline Lucas in campaigning against fracking. He claimed we used too much oil and that when future generations look back on us they will think ‘how could they be so stupid as to do that and use all those fossil fuels.’ Jukes said that the renewable energy was not sustainable. It should be noted that in UKIP’s energy policy there is potential claims that the official party policy is one which denies global warming. Linda Jack argued that the case for renewable and greener energy plans needs to be EU wide to be properly sustainable. Chris Ostrowski spoke of the successes of the EU in removing acid rain and dirty, unhygienic beaches from the UK.
The final question to the candidates was on the subject of tuition fees. Liberal Democrat candidate Linda Jack made herself clear that she was still against tuition fees and was one of the few members of the party to vote against the coalition agreement. Marc Scheimann whipped out his hand-out on the Green Party’s promise to students of which the first was to scrap university tuition fees. UKIP and the Conservative representatives agreed that university was not for all and Jukes felt that there was too much pressure on young people to go to university and it was a ridiculous idea of Tony Blair to want over 50% of people to go to university. Moreover Ostrowski made the point that the subject of tuition fees was the only vote in the House of Commons in recent times that all Labour MP’s have voted against.
In their closing statements the candidates summed up why the students should vote for their party.
Conservatives- To legislate not just for 1 off events and to continue to build the UK’s economy.
Liberal Democrats- Build an EU of peace, justice and economic stability.
Labour- Ostrowski spoke of some of the successes of the current Labour MEP for the East of England, Richard Howitt. That women could no longer be sacked from work if they were pregnant, capped working hours for children and holiday pay for all.
Green- To vote regardless of who it’s for. Not to give your voice away to someone else. To get more Green MEP’s.
UKIP- Agreed not to give your voice away and to vote. To create a landslide in the EU elections and to force a referendum…and to bring back grammar schools.
Having been the first of these events the college had run for many years and, for these elections, the only hustings in Bedfordshire the event was a complete success and I, and no doubt the college hope they will be able to organise such an event for the local and parliamentary elections next year.