General Election 2017: St Albans candidates debate health, terrorism, and anti-Sematism at synagogue hustings

PUBLISHED: 18:00 07 June 2017

L-R: St Albans Masorti Immediate past co-chair and event moderator, Simon Samuels;  Kerry Pollard, Labur;  Anne Main, Conservative, St Albans United chair Lesley Marks;  Jack Easton, Greens;  Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat; and St Albans Masorti chair Moira Hart.

L-R: St Albans Masorti Immediate past co-chair and event moderator, Simon Samuels; Kerry Pollard, Labur; Anne Main, Conservative, St Albans United chair Lesley Marks; Jack Easton, Greens; Daisy Cooper, Liberal Democrat; and St Albans Masorti chair Moira Hart.

Archant

The four candidates contesting St Albans in tomorrow's General Election debated the local hospital, terrorism, and anti-Semitism at a hustings earlier this week.

Rabbi Daniel Sturgess, minister of St Albans United Synagogue, in post-hustings discussion with Conservative candidate Anne Main.Rabbi Daniel Sturgess, minister of St Albans United Synagogue, in post-hustings discussion with Conservative candidate Anne Main.

Despite some initial doubts as to whether the hustings arranged for last Sunday evening (4) would go ahead, in the light of the London Bridge terrorist attack the previous night, all four, plus an audience of around 70 animated voters, decided that the most appropriate response was to continue as planned with the process of democracy.

The hustings, jointly organised by the two locally-based synagogues, St Albans Masorti Synagogue (SAMS) and St Albans United Synagogue, offered a platform to all four candidates: Conservative Anne Main; Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper; the Green Party’s Jack Easton; and Labour’s Kerry Pollard.

Originally scheduled to follow the BBC Question Time format, with a brief opening statement from each candidate followed by a question and answer session with the audience, the evening began instead with a minute’s silence to remember the victims of both the Manchester attack the previous week as well as those of the most recent outrage.

Moderator Simon Samuels, from SAMS, led off the questioning with a linked question of his own, asking candidates whether or not they agreed with the Prime Minister’s statement that morning on how to deal with terrorism.

Ensuing questions covered a variety of thought-provoking subjects which produced some lively debate and strong audience participation.

Among the topics that came up were the current immigration situation and how to introduce polices which would ensure a truly cohesive society, the Dubs amendment, controlling the internet and social media, and whether MPs should represent the views of their constituents rather than their own.

At a more local level, candidates were asked what they might propose to rid St Albans of pollution and to ensure the continuation of facilities at St Albans City Hospital.

Unsurprisingly, the question which prompted the most passionate response from both candidates and audience was one on anti-Semitism and how the parties might respond to this challenge.

There was still lively discussion going on when time-up was declared after more than two hours. St Albans Masorti chair Moira Hart closed the event by reflecting that: “On days like today, it is particularly poignant to be part of a system that allows us to discuss, consider and debate our opinions and ideas so openly, and then to be sufficiently cultured and understanding to be able to have a cup of tea or coffee together.”

Afterwards, she commented: “This was an excellent event and I am sure that the audience went home with plenty to think about.”

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