Candidates debate the hot topics
A hustings debate featuring the seven candidates for the marginal Halifax seat at next month’s General Election took place at Halifax Minster. Brought together to debate key issues were Conservative candidate Philip Allott, Liberal Democrat candidate Mohammad Ilyas, Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship” candidate Trevor Bendrien, Respect Party candidate Asama Javed, Labour’s Holly Lynch, UKIP’s Liz Phillips and the Green Party’s Gary Scott.
Chaired by Tom Butler, a retired bishop and former member of the House of Lords, the hustings was organised as part of the Minster Series, a sequence of events that have taken place over the last few months in the 500-year-old church.
Each candidate was given four minutes to present his or her case before answering written questions from the audience. Topics included the privatisation of the NHS, the role of religion in government, the ongoing crisis be- tween Israel and Palestine, and the planned closure of Halifax A&E department.
Philip Allott echoed statements made by the Prime Minister, tying the concerns of Halifax people in with the current government’s “long term economic plan”.
He said: “This is possibly the most important general election in a generation. The country is growing fast and, here in Halifax, unemployment has fallen by 39 per cent.”
Holly Lynch spoke of her concern for the younger generation.
She said: “Young people have been quite hard done by over the last five years. I want to stand up to stand up for young people across Halifax.”
Trevor Bendrien, chairman of the Halifax Street Angels, urged members of the public to help community groups with the town’s litter problem, to applause from the audience and agreement from all party members.
He said: “You should come out at four o’clock in the morning with the Street Angels. Halifax is a state at that time, but by 8 o’clock it is immaculate – and they’re all volunteers.”
All party members vowed to fight against the potential closure of Halifax A&E.
Mohamed Iiyas said: “The Liberal Democrats believe in the NHS. We want to give equal attention to mental health and I want to ensure that Halifax A&E stays open.”
Asama Javed agreed with his statements. She said: “We must protect the NHS at all costs. We spend £100 billion on nuclear weapons which could be spent on hospitals.”
Liz Phillips spoke frankly about UKIP’s perception as a racist party.
She said: “We are not a racist party. The only thing that UKIP stands for is some sort of control so that the infrastructure of this country can cope.”
On the topic of the environment, each candidate aside from Liz Phillips vowed to match a recent pledge by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband to work across party lines to prioritise climate change.
Gary Scott said: “It’s all about trying to use the resources that we have usefully.
“The Green Party is a practical party that wants to work with what we have – because it won’t be here forever.”
Candidates for the Halifax seat at the 2015 General Election taking part in a debate at Halifax Minster