Voters fuel healthy debate at hustings

The candidates for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton: Graham Jones, UKIP, Francis Oppler, Liberal Democrats, Nick Gibb, Conservative, Alan Butcher, Labour and Simon McDougall, Green Party
The candidates for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton: Graham Jones, UKIP, Francis Oppler, Liberal Democrats, Nick Gibb, Conservative, Alan Butcher, Labour and Simon McDougall, Green Party
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PROMISES and apologies were given when five candidates stated their case to be named the area’s MP.

Last Tuesday night’s (April 14) hustings for the Bognor Regis and Littlehampton candidates covered housing issues, immigration and education.

The audience listen intently to the debate between the politicians

The audience listen intently to the debate between the politicians

However, a show of hands revealed the two-hour debate left the majority undecided on how they will vote in May’s general election.

Audience member Tony Dixon said: “You can see the theme – it is the shafting of the next generation.”

The venue, the University of Chichester’s Bognor Campus, saw topics impacting young people dominate. Student James Gisby asked about help for first-time buyers.

Both Liberal Democrat Francis Oppler and Conservative Nick Gibb, who has held the seat since 1997, backed help to buy schemes

Green Party’s Simon McDougall listed the living wage, utilising empty properties and encouraging brown-field development – highlighting Ford as the ‘right area’ to look at for building.

Alan Butcher echoed this with Labour’s promise to build affordable homes.

Graham Jones said UKIP would remove the ‘burden’ of debt by axing tuition fees and blamed ‘population growth’ for property demand deeming it ‘something we have to look at’.

Next was Jane Lomax, concerned that her 16-year-old daughter was ‘about to sit 24 exams’, so she quizzed the candidates on education.

Mr Gibb, minister of state for education, said the higher tuition fees would remain as ‘they are working’. However, Mr Jones deemed it a ‘mess’, said he was ‘truly appalled’ and advocated the need for ‘more options’.

The academy system was a ‘worry’ for Mr Butcher and Mr Oppler took the chance to apologise on the topic of tuition fees, saying: “We all make mistakes.”

Joanna McDonald asked how the politicians plan to appeal to ‘younger votes’.

All agreed it was important with Mr Oppler calling the panel ‘the biggest turn off’.

“We are all middle aged and male and that is a crying shame. There isn’t real diversity for you,” he said.

Describing it as ‘vitally important’, Mr Butcher suggested reducing the voting age to 16. Mr McDougall agreed while Mr Jones felt a gap between the ‘rulers’ and the ‘peoples ruled’ was to blame.