Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Portsmouth South: The Candidates Debate!

by Alex McKirgan

Mr Lemieux kicked off the 2015 General Election hustings at PGS on Thursday evening.
Candidates from the 5 major parties were present as well Portsmouth South sitting MP Mike Hancock who is standing as an independent. The purpose of the event was to help inform the 
choice for registered voters and for Y12 pupils to listen and decide which candidate they might
Information was given about the Portsmouth South constituency including the constituency
boundary and which areas are included. The constituency demographics revealed a relatively
high student ratio and growth in Asian and other ethnic minority voters. Compared to the rest of
the nation, the constituency is quite secular with 11% identifying themselves as Christian, which
is below the national average. There is quite a big variation in economic conditions across the
Mr Lemieux concluded with election statistics from 2010. Mike Hancock, the former MP, won as
a Liberal Democrat with a 12% margin over the Conservatives and has held the seat since 1997.
Labour support has fallen slightly over recent elections, possibly due to tactical voting. Labour
voters may have voted Liberal Democrat to prevent the Conservatives winning the seat. Prior to
1983, the seat had been a safe Conservative seat for many years.
Mr Lemieux outlined some potential scenarios for current election. He explained that the Liberal
Democrats have lost support by being in the coalition government and with Mike Hancock now
standing as an Independent, this may split the Liberal Democrat vote. Some questions were
- Will Mike Hancock's personal vote hold up or will voters stick to party lines?
- What will happen to Labour voters? Will they still vote tactically or has Ed Milliband
made a difference?
- What will be the role of the insurgent parties (UKIP and Greens)? In an age when
many voters are disillusioned with old parties, how much support will they get?

Clearly this is going to be a very interesting election.

The candidates were then introduced, Starting with Steve Harris (UKIP). 

Mr Harris stated that UKIP had won the most recent National election (2014 elections to 
the European Parliament), have more MEPs than any other party and have numerous 
local councillors. He promised that UKIP were the only party that could be relied upon to 
force a Referendum on EU membership. Given that the polls are pointing to no one party 
having an overall majority, Mr Harris was not sure about the prospects of a UKIP-
Conservative coalition 

The Green Party were represented by their candidate for Gosport, Monica Cassidy. She 
talked a lot about Green Party Policy and less about local Portsmouth issues. She gave 
a brief history of the party and pointed out that the Green Party is not just about the 
environment. The party also focuses on social justice and equality issues as well but is 

Thursday, 30 April 2015 
less interested in profit for large companies. Despite this, she claimed the the Green 
Party is not anti-business but seeks to address issues like tax evasion and damage done 
to environment. 
less interested in profit for large companies. Despite this, she claimed the the Green 
Party is not anti-business but seeks to address issues like tax evasion and damage done 
to environment. 

The Liberal Democrats were represented by Gerald Vernon Jackson. Mr Jackson said he was 
proud of his party's achievements in the area. He felt Liberal Democrat parliamentary 
and council representatives had stopped the closure the Naval Dockyard and Naval 
Base, increased the number of council houses built and created more primary school 
places. He believed that the Liberal Democrats had helped pull other parties towards the 
centre. Despite this progress, he thought there was more work to do. He pointed out that 
life expectancy in Portsmouth is 10 years less than Drayton, which is 3 miles away. 

MIke Hancock is defending the seat as an Independent, having previously held the seat 
as a Liberal Democrat. He is a local boy and has been an MP for 21 years. He said that 
he wanted to be a strong voice for everyone in the constituency and felt he had played a 
part in the team that had transformed Portsmouth. He was not a part of the Tory 
coalition. He voted against it more than any other MP and believed that it had not been 
good for local people. He felt that housing and failing schools were the biggest local 
issues. He was prepared to make a difference by focussing on individuals rather than 
working through a big political party. 

The Conservatives were represented by Flick Drummond. She opened by saying that 
Portsmouth South was a key target seat for the Conservatives and talked about how the 
policies pursued by the government had turned around the economy. She talked about 
the need for a plan to boost jobs and investment. She spends a lot of time with small 
businesses and believes these companies can be an important provider of jobs if they 
get help. She highlighted the problem of not enough GPs in the city and how the 
Conservatives plan to address the issue. Finally, she wants Portsmouth to become the 
cycling capital of the UK. Portsmouth had too many cars and being a flat island, is very 
suitable for cycling. 

The Labour Party were represented by Sue Castillon. She explained how her family 
were Spanish Republicans who had fought against Franco. They came to the UK after 
Franco won the Spanish Civil War. She grew up in Derbyshire but has lived locally for 20 
years and works as a Community worker, working with inner city families. She talked 
about how many local families struggle to survive on 'zero hours' contracts and the 
importance of building support for future generations. Her focus is is on health and social 
care and supports devolving power to local MPs so they can resolve local issues. 

After the candidates had introduced themselves, Mr Lemieux asked for questions from 
the audience: 

Will Dry asked “which MP do you respect most?” 

Thursday, 30 April 2015 

-Labour: "Vince Cable. He has done a lot of hard work with Businesses. He has 
encouraged small/medium business and has managed to keep competition within UK” 

-CON: "Frank Field. He has done a lot to help people escape poverty and has helped 
with social justice". 

-Mike Hancock: "Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela. Both spelled out their politics and 
managed to bring people together. In Parliament, William Hague because of his 
humour. One other is Paul Flynn (said the Labour Party was 'Dragons led by 

-LIB DEM: "Paddy Ashdown and Nelson Mandela because he saved a nation from 
being destroyed". 

-Green Party. "Tony Benn for his role in stating the NHS and Dennis Skinner because 
he is a legend". 

-UKIP: "Tony Benn. Not for his politics but he was against the war in Iraq. Jacob Rees-
Mogg (son of the editor)." 

Katherine Lemieux asked "Would you distinguish between Universities and courses for 
tuition fees?" 

-Mike Hancock: "Tuition fees should be abolished and income taxes raised to pay for 
Universities. We have enough money to deal with the health service and tuition fees. 
There should be a commitment to fund the future of society." 

-LIB DEM: "Universities can do that currently but I don't agree. You can't tell people 
their course is more valuable than other courses. My concern is not just University but 
also from primary education upward. We need to focus on early education provision. 

-Green Party: "No. as a teacher, I believe you should not have to pay for tuition. There 
will be new opportunities from fee abolition. £9000 is too much to pay." 

-UKIP: "In 1989 less than 10% went to university but Labour forced people into 
University otherwise they would be seen as a failure. I disagree with current UKIP 
policy. Short answer = NO." 

-Conservative: "There are too many discrepancies, eg physiotherapists get all training 
free as opposed to doctors who pay for their training. No one wants them but they are 
only repaid once you earn above a certain level. Current system is the only way to 
guarantee a good education." 

Labour: "The new Labour Government will reduce fees to £6000 per year. Income 
from fees could be used to give bursaries." 

Dom Baker asked "Should Party Policy take Priority? 

Thursday, 30 April 2015 

-Mike Hancock: "NO! You need to listen to people who elect you rather than be 
Parliamentary Star looking for promotion. An MP's job is to defend their people. Look 
at tuition fees and the Iraq War. Many MPs disagreed but did not stand up for action." 

-Liberal Democrats: "I believe the Lib Dem Manifesto is right for city but I won't sign up 
on every issue. I want an EU referendum (not party policy), I want to cut less than the 
Conservatives but spend less than Labour. I will stand up for interests of the Royal 

-Green Party: "We don't have 'Whip' system so people can vote with their conscience. I 
agree with Party policies yet cannot decide over prison vote." 

-UKIP: "My priority is Portsmouth first, Westminster second." 

-Labour: "Labour policies are the issues that get raised on the doorstep. Scrapping 
zero hour contracts and the bedroom tax. The push for a living wage." 

-Conservative: "Constituents first, then country second, then party third. I will stand up 
for people over Party." 

Lara Spirit asked "If you won a spot in the Private members ballot, what bill would you 

-Liberal Democrats: "Bus routes. Make private companies take profit from profitable 
roots to subsidise non-profitable ones. I would regulate bus services." 

-Green: "I would introduce a bill on car buying and car ownership. We should produce 
energy efficiency estimate for whole life of car (from extracting resources to its death). 
This would affect decision making." 

-UKIP: "I would ban political polling during the election period. Constant opinion polling 
encourages herd thinking. People should vote for who they wanna vote for. You should 
also have to live where you are standing." 

-Labour: "Make PSHE compulsory at school and make studying Politics/Economics a 
requirement before getting the vote." 

-Conservative: "I would introduce a bill for HSP (high speed rail for Portsmouth). Why 
should we only have this in the North?" 

-Mike Hancock: "The UK should have a sensible debate about euthanasia. Whether, 
and how this should be allowed." 

Mr Lemieux made some concluding remarks and took a poll asking if the meeting had 
affected how people would vote. Some in the audience had changed their mind. Overall 
a very interesting and informative evening. Good luck to all the candidates. 

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