First-time voters quiz election candidates on education at Harold Hill hustings
PUBLISHED: 11:32 16 April 2015 | UPDATED: 16:36 16 April 2015
Young people showed they are more than capable of challenging their election candidates as they gave them a grilling at a hustings.
More than 100 sixth formers gathered at Drapers’ Academy on Wednesday afternoon to quiz five candidates vying for their support.
Speaking to the first-time voters were Ukip’s Gerard Batten, Labour’s Sam Gould, Conservative Julie Marson, the Green Party’s Lorna Tooley and Liberal Democrat Ian Sanderson.
They are all standing in Romford except Ms Marson, who is standing in Dagenham and Rainham.
The lively hustings, in Settle Road, Harold Hill, were chaired by Simon Baldock from Time FM.
The event kicked off with the candidates stating what they would do first if elected.
Ms Marson, Mr Gould and Mr Sanderson said they would tackle housing, Ms Tooley said unemployment and Mr Batten said he would first go and thank all the voters who chose him.
University education was a key topic at the hustings.
Ms Tooley said her party’s policy to scrap tuition fees would be funded by an income tax of 60 per cent on those earning more than £150,000, as it is “right” these people should pay more.
Mr Batten said Ukip would abolish fees for students studying vocational courses such as science and engineering, while Mr Sanderson said more disadvantaged people are actually now going to university.
Mr Gould and Ms Marson locked horns on the issue of taxing top earners.
The Labour candidate accused the Conservatives of planning a tax break for millionaires, while Ms Marson argued that her party has taxed millionaires more.
Ms Tooley and an audience member criticised Mr Batten for using the word “foreigner”, but he hit back, saying: “A foreign national is a citizen of a foreign country. What would you want me to say instead?”
The hustings ended with the candidates’ closing statements and a vote from the students.
Ms Marson said she wants the country’s “growing economy” to benefit everyone, while Mr Batten promised a referendum on European Union membership.
Mr Sanderson joked he could “speak for hours” and quoted the Liberal Democrats’ constitution, which speaks of building a “fair, free and open society”.
Both Ms Tooley and Mr Gould urged the audience to get involved in politics if they wanted their voices heard.
Mr Gould said politics “doesn’t work for young people at the moment”, while Ms Tooley told the students they should look at what each party is offering and vote with their hearts.
The audience then chose the candidate who they believed had “won” the debate.
Mr Sanderson received one vote, Mr Batten five, Ms Tooley 10 and Ms Marson 23.
Mr Gould took away the most votes, receiving 48.
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