General Election 2017: St Albans candidates fight it out at Beaumont School hustings
PUBLISHED: 10:49 12 May 2017 | UPDATED: 09:32 15 May 2017
Three of the candidates fighting for St Albans in the General Election took part in a fiery hustings at Beaumont School last Thursday.
Conservative Anne Main, Green candidate Jack Easton, and Lib Dem Daisy Cooper went back and forth over Brexit and school funding.
Before taking questions from the audience of sixth formers, the candidates introduced their platforms.
Ms Cooper said: “This is a Brexit election. 75 per cent of young people voted for Remain because so many of your rights are at risk.”
She said the Liberal Democrats wanted to reduce the voting age so more young people could have their say.
Mr Easton, a chartered accountant, sought to tackle some of the stereotypes around his party, saying he was “no sandal-wearing tree hugger”.
He spoke about the need to tackle homelessness and poverty by making higher-earners pay more taxes.
Mrs Main, who won St Albans in 2015, warned the students against “taking sweeties from strangers”.
She said: “It was not so long ago we were all promised there would be no increase in tuition fees.”
Before the question was even asked she tackled Brexit, saying she had been straight with people about how she would vote.
When the question was asked, it was concerning how Brexit would benefit the younger generation.
Daisy Cooper said no-one other than Leave-backing billionaires would benefit from Brexit.
Therefore, she said, “it is right people have a say on the final deal of the renegotiation”.
Leave supporter Anne Main took a much more positive view, laying out how the UK could take back control of food standards, and properly enforce a ban on micro-beads and the use of sow stalls.
She said: “There are lots of opportunities in animal welfare, which I care passionately about.”
Jack Easton pointed to the opportunities students would lose once we left the EU.
He said they would lose: “Erasmus, scientific grants, and more generally we have a common goal, a common interest that is being lost.”
Brexit was not on the only thing on the menu. The candidates were also asked if their party would provide sufficient funding for schools.
Anne Main conceded funding for schools was a problem, saying there was a “perfect storm” of recruitment and for high income areas like St Albans.
She highlighted the difficulty Beaumont had with building their new block, and the problems schools face by agreeing to private finance initiatives.
“Our schools are elderly and crumbling so we need to have investment.”
This last point pricked Jack Easton, who said: “It is not about trying to grab money from the developer.
“It’s about reorganising and budgeting.
“Public goods should be properly resourced and we should not be fiddling with inspections day in, day out, and putting pressure on schools that way.”
Although none of them could comment on what their manifestos would say before publication, Daisy Cooper said the Lib Dems had already promised £4 billion to plug a hole in school finances.
She also said they would prioritise the pupil premium so the money goes to low income households.
Along with Jack Easton, she attacked the government’s proposals for new grammar schools, saying they fail 80 per cent of their pupils.
After tackling those complex subjects, nearly all of the candidates then fell apart on the last question
Asked to describe St Albans in three words, Daisy Cooper used four, saying “Pubs. Liberal. Really fun.”
Jack Easton went completely overboard, using eight words: “Engaged. Willing to look at the bigger picture.”
Only Anne Main completed the task, saying: “Diverse. Integrity. Caring.”
Labour and UKIP were invited to take part in the hustings, but declined.
There are a couple of other opportunities to quiz the candidates coming up.
On Friday, June 2, there will be a hustings at Trinity United Reformed Church from 8pm.
And St Albans voters are being asked to submit questions being held at the cathedral on Tuesday, May 23.
To submit questions for this hustings, email firstname.lastname@example.org under the subject ‘Election Hustings’ - the deadline for these is Friday, May 19.