WITH a close contest being predicted for the seat of Winchester and Chandler’s Ford parliamentary candidates had everything to fight for during a hustings event last night.

The climate, social care, support for families and children, homelessness, gender violence and the NHS were all hotly debated by MP hopefuls looking to secure the votes of audience members.

Conservative candidate Steve Brine, Lib Dem Paula Ferguson, Labour’s George Baker, and Teresa Skelton of the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party attended the event at the United Reform Church, which was chaired by Bishop Tim Dakin and organised by Winchester Churches Together.

Each contender was given time to state their case before answering questions from the audience in a panel style and while each aired their party’s manifesto promises Brexit was the true theme running throughout the night.

They each had their own stance on what they would do to stop the UK leaving with a no deal at the end of 2020, but Mrs Ferguson seemed to go against the Lib Dem’s messaging of revoking Article 50 to say that there should be a “confirmatory referendum” to the surprise of Mr Brine.

She said: “I would never vote for any Brexit deal. I believe the deal we have is the very best deal. Yes there is things about the European Union that that needs reform… we should remain at the table.”

And Mr Brine, who was supported in the audience by former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, said that he believed a “moderate Brexit” was the way forward, adding: “I think there is a chance we can have a stable withdrawal deal by the end of January.”

He added that the country could then focus on working towards a trade deal.

READ: Winchester General Election: Tories and Lib Dems in tight race

Meanwhile Mrs Skelton said her party had not had a view on how Brexit should take place, but she said that ‘democracy should prevail’, and Mr Baker told the audience that Labour plans to resolve a Brexit deal in six months, adding: “Labour will never ever ever support a catastrophic no deal”.

The topic of help families and children brought up differing views from all parties, each with their own ideas on how to help those in need.

Lib Dem Mrs Ferguson said: “We would put money back into local authorities because local people know what is needed and that will help to address the issue.”

She also said that there would be an increase in council housing allowance to be in line with rent, a cut in the waiting time to switch to Universal Credit from five weeks to five days and increase pupil premiums for the most deprived.

Labour’s Mr Baker said the cuts made in the area by the Tory’s and the coalition government were “immoral, disgusting and wrong”. He stated that more funding would be given to local authorities, but the party’s approach also looks at creating a youth network and opening up at least 750 youth centres, along with embarking on the biggest council housing programme “in generations”.

While Mr Brine said the only way to fund public services was through a “strong, growing economy” and proposed that there would be more taxation for this, adding that more funding would be given.

Mrs Skelton said that the problem was greater than finance could resolve.

Candidates were equally protective over the future of the NHS. Audience member Abby Dank stated that for any trade deal with the US the country has said that the NHS would need to be included and she wanted to know the aspiring MPs views.

With Mrs Skelton saying that “it is ours”, adding that the country fought for, while incumbent MP Mr Brine stated clearly: “When we are negotiating any trade deals the NHS will not be on the table”.

Mr Baker said: “The NHS is not on the table under any Labour minority or majority. The NHS is our finest inventions. We must protect.”

And Mrs Ferguson added: “Categorically the NHS should not be on the table in any trade agreements.

“We should not put it up for sale to the Americans.”

Climate change was also a hot topic of the night while all agreed that radical changes needed to be made not just at the top but in individual lifestyle choices.

READ: Winchester's General Election candidates go head to head at Climate Hustings

Despite slight heckling the night ended on a cheerful note, with each candidate being asked whether they would ever go onto a reality television, with all saying no, but Mr Brine jesting he wouldn’t mind Strictly Come Dancing and Mr Baker humorously saying that maybe Love Island “could do with something a bit different”.