Ripon MP hopefuls face public at hustings

From left with the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson ' who chaired the hustings at the cathedral ' are Skipton and Ripon parliamentary candidates Alan Henderson (UKIP), Jacquie Bell (Lib Dem), Malcolm Birks (Labour), Andy Brown (Green) and Julian Smith (Conservative). (S)
From left with the Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson ' who chaired the hustings at the cathedral ' are Skipton and Ripon parliamentary candidates Alan Henderson (UKIP), Jacquie Bell (Lib Dem), Malcolm Birks (Labour), Andy Brown (Green) and Julian Smith (Conservative). (S)
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All five parliamentary candidates for Skipton and Ripon have been put to the test during a hustings and question and answer session at Ripon Cathedral.

More than 100 voters gathered in the cathedral on Tuesday, April 28, to quiz the candidates on a range of different issues ahead of the General Election on Thursday, May 7.

Julian Smith (Conservative), Andy Brown (Green), Jacquie Bell (Lib Dem), Malcolm Birks (Labour) and Alan Henderson (UKIP) all offered a brief introduction about themselves before answering questions from the public.

Mr Smith, who won the seat in 2010, first introduced himself and said his focus would be to continue representing one of the most rural constituencies in England.

“Next week is not just about selecting your MP, it’s about making a choice on who you want to run your country. I’m pleased the results are beginning to come through but there is much more to do,” he said.

Green candidate Mr Brown stressed there was now an “environmental crisis” that needed to be taken seriously and the amount of oil needed for 7 billion people could not continue. He said: “Sooner or later we have to move to a lower energy consumption economy, the country that moves first to that kind of economy will be at the forefront of the next stage of the industrial revolution.”

Labour candidate Mr Birks said he wanted to “dispel the myth” that the Conservatives had become the “guardians of the economy”. He said: “One of the biggest things in this election is fairness. There have been lots of cuts to local services but this Government has given a tax break to millionaires. We have a situation where there is one rule for the rich and one for everybody else.”

Ms Bell, the Lib Dem candidate, said her party had a record of delivery in Government and promised more of the same for the years ahead.She said: “75 per cent of our 2010 manifesto has been delivered. We want to protect education spending and give protection to farmers in the rural communities. We want to balance the books fairly and protect health, education and vital services.”

UKIP candidate Alan Henderson began by condemning the defacing of a party colleague’s placard erected in Spa Ward for the local elections.He added: “I got into politics because at the last election so many people promised so much and delivered so little. It’s time for a major change in UK politics and how business is conducted. If we don’t do that we are doomed.”

The candidates answered questions on the greatest threat to the country’s welfare; tackling climate change; housing; the Trident nuclear deterrent; a hung parliament; and the overseas aid budget.

The Dean of Ripon, the Very Rev John Dobson, who chaired the hustings, said: “It was encouraging all candidates agreed to participate in the cathedral hustings event.

“The church has always served for the well-being of society and is keen to engage with the issues of the day without being party political.

“Encouraging an opportunity for this public debate in the lead up to the General Election is consistent with our mission to serve the well-being of the whole community.”