Report on general election hustings in Wiveliscombe

Four parliamentary candidates for Taunton Deane attended the hustings organised by Wivey Action on Climate on 30 May 2017 at Kingsmead School.

Clive Martin (Green Party), Martin Jevon (Labour Party), Gideon Amos (Liberal Democrats) and Alan Dimmick (UK Independence Party) addressed questions on climate change, the Brexit deal, an unbalanced economy, transport priorities, education funding and how they would make Britain great again.

We were disappointed Rebecca Pow (Conservative Party) “decided not to take part” in the only hustings organised in Wiveliscombe.

Julian Mellor ably chaired and about 75 people attended. 10 Radio recorded the hustings for broadcast on Monday, 5 June at 7pm. Also listen to 10 Radio’s candidate interviews, including for Rebecca Pow with mention of climate change near the end.

The candidates introduced themselves by outlining their priorities for government. Gideon Amos said strong opposition was needed to the hard-line agenda of the Conservatives. Alan Dimmick said an alternative was needed to the other parties who had got us in the current situation. Martin Jevons said he would represent all fairly and evenly, while holding on to his personal beliefs. Clive Martin would address climate change and funding for public services.

Responding to the first question on whether economic growth or tackling climate change was more important, Gideon Amos said we needed to move away from an economy in which growth and protecting the climate were fundamentally at odds with each other. Transition will not be easy and will take time, with carbon trading part of the answer. Alan Dimmick said climate change was a natural phenomenon and painting 20% of roofs white would reflect enough heat to reduce global temperature increases. He said growth was needed to pay for services.

Clive Martin said we could no longer be confident the next generation will be richer than the one before. He would tackle climate change, but would get people on board and ensure it is not the poor who suffer, both locally and internationally. Martin Jevon did not see economic growth and tackling climate change as mutually exclusive. He said we needed sustainable jobs in a green and fair economy, but that the high price for Hinkley C showed the current balance was wrong.

The questioner observed that the planet could not sustain indefinite growth. Under-developed countries should be allowed to grow and we must start managing with less.

Moving on, Alan Dimmick said Brexit should hold no fears for anyone. It would allow us to regain our sovereignty, but we needed a fair free trade deal. Gideon Amos said UKIP were thrilled with the Conservative manifesto. He wanted the Brexit deal to allow our children a choice of a future in Europe and give a close relationship with a free European market. Martin Jevon wanted the Brexit deal to provide a fair opportunity to continue as part of Europe. As a remoaner, Clive Martin said he hoped sanity would prevail and he wanted a referendum on the deal offered.

The questioner thought a hard Brexit would be unfair and we should keep advantages for the environment given by the EU. Gideon Amos added there was a risk the Conservatives would cut subsidies from farmers which would be a disaster for our countryside.

To better balance our economy, Martin Jevon favoured co-operative business models. Clive Martin said we were surfing on a mountain of debt and tighter regulation was needed to avoid future financial disasters. Gideon Amos supported a new Green Investment Bank, local banking and investing in small business. Alan Dimmick supported investment in manufacturing and service industries.

The questioner said there should be a phased change to take money creation away from banks and to put it under democratic control.

On transport spending, Clive Martin said we should refocus on pedestrians, cycling, buses and trains, although the private car would stay the dominant form of transport in rural areas. Martin Jevon supported more alternatives to cars. Alan Dimmick said we had to rely on cars. Gideon Amos supported measures to tempt people out of their cars, including linking trains to new settlements.

Responding to a question about a real term 8% cut in funding to local schools, Gideon Amos said education was highly important and the Liberal Democrats were committed to additional funding which would reverse current cuts and to also end reductions in public sector pay. Alan Dimmick said academies should go back to local authority control and questioned how much was spent on head teachers and consultation. Clive Martin also supported fair pay for staff and extra funding to schools. He thought education had been commoditised and wanted less testing and more assessment, with academies and free schools back under local authorities. Martin Jevon would axe new grammar and free schools, as well as VAT relief on private school fees.

The questioner said his local primary school was facing agonising decisions due to funding cuts and thought it a disgrace that the Conservative candidate had not attended the hustings.

To make Britain great again, Martin Jevon thought we were great already as demonstrated by the way people in Manchester came together in the face of terrorism. Clive Martin wanted Britain to lead the way in meeting commitments for refugees and climate change and in adopting a better, more sustainable way to live. Alan Dimmick wanted to build a more socially and financially just society and a large hospital ship to help with crisis and disaster. Gideon Amos said we faced a future which is either more sustainable and just or which aligns with Trump and a hard Brexit.

To conclude, Clive Martin said our existing MP was the Bookie’s clear favourite and she knew she had the election nailed, so a vote for him was a vote for the planet and for the future. Martin Jevon said he was ever hopeful and offered some diversity as being the only openly gay candidate in Taunton Deane. Alan Dimmick would represent people on the ground and provide practical solutions. Gideon Amos said you had to vote for him to defeat the Conservative and he could win.

Wivey Action on Climate thanks all those who helped organise the hustings, the candidates and all those who attended and helped make it an informative and worthwhile evening.

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