General Election 2017: St Albans candidates debate Brexit, cannabis and political heroism at cathedral hustings

The audience at the St Albans cathedral hustings

The audience at the St Albans cathedral hustings - Credit: Archant

The four candidates contesting St Albans for the General Election clashed last Friday night over Brexit, cannabis, and political heroism.

The occasionally heated debate, held at St Albans Cathedral, was moderated by Revd Stephen Venner.

He first asked the audience to stand to remember the Manchester bombing victims. The hustings had been postponed in the wake of the terrorist attack.

After which, he asked each candidate in alphabetical order to give their opening statement.

Liberal Democrat Daisy Cooper went hard on Europe, saying: “This election is about Brexit and the future direction of our country.

“Someone has to sign that deal off. I want it to be us, to make sure the final deal is good enough.”

Green Party Jack Easton sought to weave the economy and the environment together, saying: “The economy must be all about sustainability.

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“The Green Party has big and bold ideas for Britain. We believe in being brave.”

Conservative Anne Main promoted her record as St Albans MP: “I work 100 per cent for you, no second jobs.

“I cannot please everyone but I can do my damnedest.

“You will be choosing your MP and government, that will either be led by Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn.”

Labour’s Kerry Pollard went last, and put himself forward as the only opposition to Anne Main, telling Daisy Cooper: “You are going nowhere.”

He dedicated his statement to healthcare, homes, and schools, calling the NHS “our pride and joy”, saying he was “very happy to support the building of council houses”, and “pleased” education was such a prominent issue in the election.

After candidates had made their pitches, the first question was asked by the audience: what is the best outcome for the UK in Brexit, and should we honour all our commitments in the Brexit settlement?

Jack Easton said the best outcome would be a deal which preserves more of what we are losing, such as freedom of movement.

Anne Main said she wanted Brexit to protect our seas from microbeads and improve food standards by abandoning EU labelling policies.

Kerry Pollard attracted loud cheers by saying he was a firm remainer, saying the EU was a guarantor of peace in Europe after the Second World War.

Daisy Cooper said it was not for her or Theresa May to say, it was for the British people to decide, as without a second referendum, no-one would be happy with the outcome.

The second question concerned very similar ground: what would the candidates do to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the constituency?

Anne Main said she was the first MP to say we should not use people as “bargaining chips”, but wanted to protect the rights of UK citizens living in the EU as well.

Kerry Pollard said we needed EU citizens to stay here: “When we need someone to build a wall, invariably it will be someone from Poland.”

Daisy Cooper called on the government to enter the negotiations in good faith, and guarantee EU citizens’ right to remain.

Jack Easton said if the Green Party got into government, they would immediately guarantee that right.

But the most heated exchanges of the night came when the candidates were answering how they would bring about a fairer society.

Anne Main launched a surprise attack on the Lib Dems’ promise to legalise and tax marijuana, implying they would “raise a billion pounds on the back of young people’s mental health”.

Daisy Cooper was given the chance to respond, and said: “We have a public health crisis.

“Cannabis is being grown by gangs and the TPC [psychoactive constituent of cannabis] is being increased, and the money that is being retrieved is funding criminal gangs.”

In answer to the question, Kerry said we needed fairer taxation, and a Jack said we needed a wealth tax.

Finally, asked to name their political heroes, Jack said Caroline Lucas, Kerry chose Nelson Mandela, Anne picked Mother Theresa, and Daisy Cooper opted for her grandmother.