VIDEO: Feisty hustings sees Peterborough candidates debate terrorism, Brexit and plenty more

It has been very much a sombre week in Britain, but any signs that political debate will be tempered in the wake of the Manchester terror attack were not in evidence at the Peterborough Telegraph's hustings for candidates seeking to become MP for Peterborough.

Saturday, 27th May 2017, 1:12 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 10:04 pm
The hustings at the Peterborough Regional College.

Indeed, the very mention of the words "terrorism" and "Manchester" in the first question last night (Friday, May 26) ignited a rumbustious debate between the four candidates and the audience.

Outspoken Conservative Stewart Jackson wasted no time in attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn's speech from earlier in the day, which linked Britain's foreign wars with an increased threat from terrorists.

His response to the question from a member of the public drew both angry barracking and loud applause from the audience.

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The next question on Brexit proved only marginally more modest, with the debate on immigration and whether the public knew what they voted for in the EU referendum again drawing forceful responses both from the candidates and audience.

However, the event at Peterborough Regional College did begin to calm down, with Mr Jackson, Fiona Onasanya (Labour), Beki Sellick (Liberal Democrat) and Fiona Radic (Green Party) facing less heckling.

Further questions during the two hour debate asked the candidates their thoughts on the biggest infrastructure challenges in Peterborough in the next five years, mental health provision and raising income.

One so-called JAM (Just About Managing) member of the audience, Niki Audsley, who is not married, does not have children and does not claim benefits, asked how the parties would benefit her.

The hustings at the Peterborough Regional College.

And after hearing the answers she was not afraid to tell the candidates that their responses were unsatisfactory.

Speaking after the two-hour hustings had finished, the 42-year-old from Longthorpe told the Peterborough Telegraph: "It was an interesting evening. It was intriguing to see how each party representative responded to the different questions.

"At times the answers were very comprehensive, at times evasive. It was interesting to see how they responded to being challenged."

Asked if she had now decided how she would vote, she added: "It's given me a lot of food for thought. I'm still undecided. They need to do an awful lot more to persuade me.

The hustings at the Peterborough Regional College.

"I'm not an easy one to be won over. They need to be honest with me."

The candidates were each given a minute at the end to make a final pitch to the audience.

Ms Onasanya said: "For the people of Peterborough I'm saying that I would like to be a voice for you in Parliament.

"Brexit is a real issue but it's not the only issue. We need to look at local issues as well as looking at the national picture.

"For Brexit we are looking at a good deal. We will be trying to negotiate a deal that benefits the people here.

"I need to make sure that you have a voice. I'm used to negotiating - I'm a practicing solicitor - and I'm asking to be your voice for change on June 8.

Ms Sellick said: "I'm a practicing engineer and I know about negotiating within Europe - that's what I've done in my job.

"This election is about people and money, so that we can afford proper funding for vital services.

"We will increase education spending and we will extend free lunches which we introduced in government. And we will pay for that by reversing some of the recent Conservative tax benefits for the corporations and super rich.

"I will apply my expertise to enable a brighter future for us all."

Mr Jackson said: "It's been the greatest of privileges to have been MP for Peterborough for 12 years, and I like to think I can succeed in the next term.

"By making Brexit work we can be the self-governing, independent, parliamentary democracy to continue the strong and stable national leadership with an expanding economy, to reform the public services, reduce welfare dependency, get more people into work, focus on social divisions and fairness to improve.

"My record defending Peterborough, looking after the interests of the people of Peterborough and being the people's champion in Parliament for 12 years will be enough, I hope, to get re-elected."

Ms Radic said: "The Greens want a Brexit but the best possible deal. They want to offer a ratification referendum which, if it is ok, they are confident people can vote for it.

"We are the only party committed to electoral reform, to rolling back the cuts in NHS and education and local government which is also currently on its knees.

"We don't think an expanding economy and growth is possible forever because we only have one planet. So we have put the environment back on our agenda.

"We cannot break it - that is the existential threat to us. It's nothing to do with extremism."

A more detailed report on the hustings will appear on the PT's website and in the paper next week.

To see the candidates' full closing statements, click on the embedded tweet on the page from PT editor Mark Edwards who hosted the event.