Over a hundred people attended the ‘Reverse Hustings’ at Katesgrove’s Quaker Meeting House on 31 May. Members of the public gave candidates their views and asked questions on subjects ranging from homelessness to sustainability.
The Labour Party parliamentary candidates Councillor Matt Rodda and Olivia Bailey, Green Party candidate Jamie Whitham and independents Michael Turberville and Andy Kirkwood (Movement for Active Democracy) were on the hustings panel.
The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates, Jenny Woods and Meri O’Connell, did not attend but were represented by Councillor Ricky Duveen and Chair of Greater Reading Liberal Democrats, James Moore. The Green Party’s Kizzi Johannessen was too ill to answer questions, but was represented by fellow candidate Jamie Whitham. Reading’s two sitting MPs, Alok Sharma and Rob Wilson (Conservative), sent their apologies but no representatives.
The format of the hustings was that each of the candidates or their representatives made short opening statements, then the meeting moved on to four topics for public questions and candidate responses. At the end there was a rounding up from each candidate.
Public comments and questions
1. Local homelessness and housing – As residents of Reading what would you see as the issues with homelessness and housing and what would you like to see your MP do?
The audience asked: how to deal with the increase in street homelessness and its causes; the imbalance between supply and demand for homes in the Reading area and how to deal with it; the reduction in council housing stock because of the right to buy; controlling conversions into houses in multiple occupation (HMO); the provision of affordable homes and how to control rents in the private rented sector.
2. Integration and isolation in our community – how to encourage a culture of hospitality?
The impact of the Brexit referendum featured heavily in this part of the hustings including: the protection of the rights of European citizens in Reading; how the Labour party would deal with the six tests they have set if the Brexit deal failed; the problems that will result for disabled and older people if personal assistants from Europe left because they did not feel welcome and similarly the impact on NHS staff.
Making new arrivals welcome to the UK was approached in a question relating to the commitment of the parties to asylum seekers and access of refugees to family reunion rights. One commenter asked how to change views of those who did not see migration to the UK as beneficial.
Government cuts were blamed for increased social isolation arising from the reduction in disability benefits and the funding which Reading Borough Council had available to voluntary agencies for English language tuition.
3. Energy and the Environment – What would you like to see your MP do?
This topic produced some of the most direct questions to the panel of prospective Reading East and West MPs.
They were asked to suggest one unpopular measure to tackling the unsustainability of our lifestyle and to accept the scientific assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others that climate change is happening.
There was more than one request for the introduction of VAT on airline fuel and the candidates were also asked to choose between meeting EU environmental targets and the third runway at Heathrow.
Particularly pertinent to Katesgrove’s ageing housing stock was a request for exterior cladding of Victorian homes.
Brexit also reared its head in this section in the need to work with the EU on climate change and how funding for science could be protected after leaving the EU.
4. A fairer society – Where do you see inequalities in society and what would you like to see change?
A significant proportion of comments were about the inequality in our system of parliamentary representation: democratic deficit and how to get real power to the people using electronic approaches, proportional representation and the lowering of the voting age.
Financial inequality was addressed in questions relating to zero hours contracts, the living wage and universal basic income.
A topical local issue that was commented on was the proposed closure of Chiltern Edge School and among other school matters was reductions to school budgets including the ‘Fairer Funding Formula’ which was still not fair.
Andy Kirkwood (Movement for Active Democracy)
The only policy that I have is that you should be able to self-determine rule for yourselves. I don’t want any more power than the rest of you.
We are heading towards an Orwellian state of control where banks and corporations have all the money and the power and our lives will get worse.
Please don’t give the tiny bit of power you have to a stranger, ever again.
James Moore, on behalf of Jenny Woods (Liberal Democrats)
Our voting system is broken. Lib dems will bring in proportional representation [and] votes for 16 and 17 yr olds.
The NHS needs more money and support, so we will bring in 1p on the pound in income tax ringfenced for the NHS.
We want fairer funding for schools and we would retain free school meals. We would not bring in grammar schools.
A hard Brexit involving leaving the single market and customs union is not inevitable. Leaving the EU is not inevitable.
Matt Rodda (Labour)
There is a clear and stark choice facing the country; between continued austerity, dramatic further cuts to public services like the NHS and schools, or a completely different approach which allows us to restart the economy, get sustainable growth, and help us build a fairer society.
It’s also the choice between a very risky Tory hard Brexit and Labour maintaining access to the single market, including things like environmental regulation and rights at work.
The other choice is between the continued broken housing market and proper investment in housing. Labour would build a million new homes by the end of the parliament. This includes a revival for council housing, and an end to landlordism that has blighted Reading for so many years.
Ricky Duveen, on behalf of Meri O’Connell (Liberal Democrats)
Watching Brexit is like watching a blind driver put his foot down and aim at a concrete wall. We will give people the right to a final say on Brexit once terms have been decided through negotiation. We need a second referendum.
The Tories will continue their austerity project if re-elected.
Olivia Bailey (Labour)
Theresa May called this election because she wanted a blank cheque for Brexit. It was arrogant and reckless.
But people are saying; we don’t like what this country has become under the Tories; we don’t like the shrunken state that removes the safety net for the most vulnerable.
We don’t want a country where our kids don’t have a fair chance because the government is stripping money out of local schools and spending too much time focussing on vanity projects like grammar schools.
I will be a hard-working, community-focussed MP.
Michael Turberville (independent)
As long as [the European Act 2011] exists we cannot have Brexit. We cannot have our human rights removed without our consent.
NHS national insurance has to be split from income tax. There should be universal basic income… which pays what it costs to actually exist.
Rights should be taught at school, including gay, lesbian, trans and bisexual.
Instead of giving pots of land to developers, they should have three months to start building and six months to have it finished.
Jamie Whitham (Green Party)
We don’t have a whip system in the Green Party, so I can always represent the views of Reading people.
I have always been drawn towards the idea of bearing witness; when an injustice happens, then someone saw it. I may not win this election, but a vote for me reminds the government we are watching.
The full candidate list
The general election will be on 8 June 2017. Polling stations in Reading will be open from 7am until 10pm.
Reading East constituency
|Kizzi Johannessen||The Green Party|
|Andy Kirkwood||Movement for Active Democracy|
|Matt Rodda||Labour Party|
|* Rob Wilson||Conservative Party|
|Jenny Woods||Liberal Democrats|
Reading West constituency
|Olivia Bailey||Labour Party|
|Meri O’Connell||Liberal Democrats|
|* Alok Sharma||Conservative Party|
|Jamie Whitham||The Green Party|
Candidates marked with an asterisk are that constituency’s defending MP.
- Reading’s general election candidates for 8 June
- What ward am I in?
- Reading parliamentary election notices
- Reading East candidates
- Reading West candidates
- Your vote matters
- Readings Quakers
- Reading Borough Council – Right to Buy
- Reading Borough Council – Houses in Multiple Occupation
- Definition of general housing terms
- Intergovernmental Panel on climate change – IPCC