NHS, northern bypass and climate change hot topics for Ipswich Parliamentary candidate hustings
PUBLISHED: 22:15 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 14:17 03 December 2019
The Parliamentary candidates for the marginal Ipswich seat made impassioned pleas to voters on Monday night, at a packed hustings for the 2019 General Election.
More than 100 voters, made up from students and members of the general public, listened to the debate, organised by Archant Suffolk and hosted by the University of Suffolk, before quizzing the candidates on a host of issues.
Chief among those were the NHS, Brexit, and the climate agenda, as well as local issues such as county lines and gangs in Ipswich and the town's traffic problems.
The event represented a key opportunity for all five of the candidates to makes their case to voters, with Labour's Sandy Martin defending a majority of just 831.
Tom Hunt (Conservative), Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett (Liberal Democrats), Barry Broom (Green) and Nicola Thomas (Brexit Party) completed the panel, chaired by Archant political correspondent Paul Geater.
The debate began with a 30-second pitch from each on why voters should choose them.
Mr Broom said 2019 was "the climate election" and added "we are the number one party to make sure that our home, planet earth, is safe".
Mr Hunt said: "I think Ipswich deserves to have a Member of Parliament who will spend 2020 tackling the issues in the town and not re-running the referendum."
Ms Thomas said: "I am motivated by democratic reform. I really want to change politics for the good and to have equality of funding across the regions of the UK."
Mr Hyyrylainen-Trent said: "I am here to stop Brexit. I am also the consistent candidate here - I said the same thing in 2017."
Mr Martin said: "I have worked tirelessly to try and make things better for Ipswich people. I will still be here after the General Election whether I win or lose. I will do whatever I can to make sure we have a sane policy going forward to help people get on with their lives."
The five candidates took differing stances on Brexit, while debate also centred around electoral reform.
However, some of the problem issues in Ipswich were also talking points, including the gangs, knife crime and drug supply issues. Mr Hunt spoke of the increase in police officers pledged by the Prime Minister, while Mr Martin raised the closure of children's centres and impact on youngsters early in their lives.
The answer to Ipswich's road problems included debate on Orwell Bridge closures and the need for a northern route, as well as the environmental impact of traffic and building new roads.
One of the most heated debates took place around the NHS and whether it would be for sale as part of a trade deal with the US. Mr Hunt came under fire for suggesting it was "scaremongering" by the Labour Party, but all candidates agreed more was needed to recruit and retain nurses and GPs.
Mr Hunt and Ms Thomas both agreed the biggest issue facing Ipswich was knife crime and town centre safety, while Mr Broom prioritised the climate agenda, Mr Hyyrylainen-Trett raised mental health and infrastructure as priorities and the skills gap was the key for Mr Martin.
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