VOTERS in the Romsey and Southampton North constituency were able to grill the General Election candidates at a hustings.

The event, which all six candidates attended, was organised by Christ Church Southampton and held at the Burgess Road Library on Sunday, June 16. 

Topics ranged from mental health, biggest mistakes and thoughts on their party leader. 

To start, each candidate gave an introduction. 

Geoff Cooper, Liberal Democrat, said: “If I am elected, it would be a great honour to represent the people of Romsey and Southampton North. Brexit is what got me active in politics. We need to start healing some of the divides that things like Brexit and social media are driving in our country. We need to be kinder to each other.”

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Caroline Nokes, Conservative, said: “This country needs pragmatic, moderate politicians to work together. No party has all of the answers. Our democracy is not perfect but it's an awful lot better than some of the alternatives. Geoff is right, we need to celebrate the fact we have the freedom in this country to have a democracy that functions. This is perhaps the most toxic election we will ever have.”

Connor Shaw, Green Party, said: “One word British politics lacks is something this country needs more than anything else right now, real hope and real change. For too long, British politics has felt hopeless, but I'm here to offer a different vision. This community is part of who I am and I'm passionate about serving those who shaped my upbringing. I truly believe a better future is possible.”

Christie Lambert, Labour, said: “We need to alleviate people's fears. We have become so used to living in a perpetual state of fear. There is fear of crime and anti-social behaviour is rising to unprecedented levels. There is fear that we can't even drink our own water because there might be sewage in it. We need a change only a Labour government can bring to address these fears head on.”

(Image: Newsquest)

Paul Barrett, Reform UK, said: “I'm proud to be standing for Reform. I moved back to the UK about seven years ago having spent most of my adult life working overseas. We need some radical reforms in this country. I had always been a Tory voter before moving back to the UK, but Reform UK was the only party that resonated with me to make bold decisions.”

Fennie Yap, independent, said: “We need consistency in the way we understand human rights, specifically the right to life from conception to natural death. Since abortion was first legalised in 1967, we have tragically ended 10m lives. None of the main political parties have any plans to end this grave injustice. Until we start protecting babies in the womb, this country has no future. I am committed to doing what the main parties have failed to do.”

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A wide variety of questions were asked from the crowd of around 60 people. Benjamin Hendy asked about the candidates' biggest mistakes. 

Mr Cooper said: “The biggest mistake I have made, which didn't feel like a mistake at the time, was marrying my first wife. The mistake was not listening to those who were nearest and dearest to me who had my best interests at heart.”

(Image: Newsquest)

Sally Yalden, a Lib Dem on Test Valley Borough Council, asked what each candidate thought of their party leader. 

Ms Nokes said: “I think Rishi is an incredibly hardworking and intelligent individual, I celebrate the fact that he is from this constituency.”

Ms Lambert said: “One of the things I admire about Sir Keir Starmer is how measured he is and how he cares about the plight of hardworking people. He would be a fantastic Prime Minister.”

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The event's host, Jonti Taylor, asked mental health provisions. Miss Yap said: “This is becoming increasingly common with people in my circle. I affirm a child's education is the primary responsibility of his or her parents.”

Mr Barrett said: “The Reform party would ban critical race theory in primary and secondary schools. Let's give children the opportunity to learn and not poison their minds.”

Mr Shaw said: “In schools, we need at least one mental health professional. We need to increase the funding in schools.”

The general election takes place on July 4, after being called by Rishi Sunak. This could could signal an end to his Conservative Party's 14 years of power.