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Students grill candidates at election hustings

PUBLISHED: 08:51 27 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:27 27 November 2019

Michael De Whalley, Green candidate for North West Norfolk at the December 2019 elections    Picture: Chris Bishop

Michael De Whalley, Green candidate for North West Norfolk at the December 2019 elections Picture: Chris Bishop

Archant

Students at the College of West Anglia grilled candidates looking to become MP for North West Norfolk at a hustings in its lecture room.

Jo Rust, Labour candidate for North West Norfolk at the December 2019 elections    Picture: Chris BishopJo Rust, Labour candidate for North West Norfolk at the December 2019 elections Picture: Chris Bishop

Conservative candidate James Wild was not present at the event due to "campaign commitments" and was 'empty chaired'.

The hustings included Liberal Democrat candidate Rob Colwell, Labour candidate Jo Rust and Green Party candidate Michael de Whalley.

Students asked questions on topics ranging from the environment to Brexit, and all candidates stressed the importance of speaking to younger voters.

The first question came from Jacob Stephens who asked the candidates if a second referendum was undemocratic.

Rob Colwell, Liberal Democrat candidate for North West Norfolk at the December 2019 elections    Picture: Chris BishopRob Colwell, Liberal Democrat candidate for North West Norfolk at the December 2019 elections Picture: Chris Bishop

Ms Rust replied that their should be a "proper legally binding referendum", as the previous one was only advisory and said that the government regularly votes more than once on issues.

She added: "I don't see why any of you would be against that [a second referendum] because you missed out in the first place."

Mr De Whalley said that issues with the first referendum which led to Vote Leave being given a maximum fine and potential Russian interference along with Brexit being "mis-sold horrendously" meant that the Green party would hold a second referendum in-which it would support Remain.

Mr Colwell said: "If we don't have a People's Vote there will be a whole generation left behind."

Candidates were asked what they would do to protect the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn.

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Mr Colwell said he had recently experienced the service at the QEH first hand, he said staff were "fantastic" however due to a lack of doctors to sign patents in and out, a family member of his had to wait six hours to be admitted and five hours to be discharged.

He added: "How can we trust Labour's magic money tree, which they seemingly have no means of funding?"

Ms Rust said that health and social care had been underfunded by the Tories and said that the 40-year-old hospital hadn't been maintained, and added that rather than making improvements, it was time for a new hospital to be built.

She said: "It's not good giving a hospital a £9m loan when it is already £20m in debt."

Mr De Whalley said the NHS had suffered for years with "political interference" and added that he felt there was currently a crisis for mental health services. He said one of the main issues with healthcare was that more nurses were needed.

When asked what they would do about student loans, Mr De Whalley and Ms Rust said they were in favour of scrapping them, however Mr Colwell said his party would reduce him, leading to jeers from the audience and prompting chants of "oh Jeremy Corbyn" which raised a smile from Ms Rust.

Mr Colwell said that if it was up to him he would scrap the fees, but it was not party policy.

To finish candidates were asked what they felt the biggest issues facing the constituency were.

Mr De Whalley said the climate and biodiversity crisis was his main priority, with a third of the constituency below sea level.

He added: "We need to adapt, we need to mitigate."

Ms Rust said: "A lack of opportunities for people that want to do something different, we're finding it hard to keep talent in west Norfolk."

Mr Colwell said none of the audience would be surprised that his biggest concern was Brexit, which he felt was "sacrificing our freedom", he also pointed out that the College of West Anglia had received 35 separate funding grants from the EU.

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