Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Election hopefuls in television debate


Wind turbines, the dualling of the A11, the eco-town at Rackheath and cuts to public spending were among the topics which candidates hoping to become Norwich's next MP were quizzed over during a televised hustings.

With Norwich North set to go to the polls next Thursday to vote on who should follow Ian Gibson as their MP, candidates for the four main parties were thrust under the television spotlight.

Chris Ostrowski (Labour), April Pond (Liberal Democrats), Rupert Read (Green Party) and Chloe Smith (Conservatives) appeared before a specially invited audience at BBC East's debate, chaired by Look East presenter Stuart White.

When asked what they would do the same as Dr Gibson, who resigned after he was caught up in the MP expenses scandal, and what they would do differently former University of East Anglia student Mr Ostrowski said he had been inspired by the Labour veteran campaigning against tuition fees.

He said he would publish “every receipt and item of expenses” on his website and added: “I do not think Ian Gibson was interested in money at all, but was undone by the circumstances.”

Miss Smith said she would like to follow in Dr Gibson's footsteps of being a strong local person, Mrs Pond said she would follow his example of problem-solving for his constituents and Mr Read, who said Labour had forced the ex-MP out for being a rebel, said he would, like Dr Gibson, stand up for the people of Norwich and speak his mind.

In response to a question about whether their party would back the dualling of the A11, Mr Read was alone in stating his party would not campaign for that.

He said: “Dualling the A11 is a very popular policy, but just because something is popular does not mean it is right. We have looked long and hard and the case for dualling the A11 does not add up.”

On eco-towns, with one earmarked for Rackheath, Miss Smith said the current batch seemed to have been “imposed” by London and said she did not think they were the way forward. Mrs Pond agreed, questioning the lack of transport links to Norwich.

Wind turbines versus nuclear power was another topic the panel was quizzed over. Mr Ostrowski said he had been staunchly anti-nuclear power, but realised now that it was needed, along with alternative forms of power such as wind and solar energy.

Miss Smith agreed that a mixture of energy formats was needed and said: “David Cameron is right. Nuclear comes into the mix.”

Mr Read said energy companies were relying on the government to deal with the waste from nuclear power and said he favoured other forms, while Mrs Pond said sites needed to be identified for wind farms where they would not cause controversy.

When challenged on whether they would cut public spending, Mr Ostrowski said: “There may have to be tough decisions” while Miss Smith said her party would make cuts. She said: “We simply do not have the money in the coffers thanks to the past 12 years.”

Mr Read said that would mean a return to Thatcherism and huge cuts to schools and hospitals, while Mrs Pond said scrapping the ID card scheme and Trident would free up cash.”

The four candidates were among a dozen candidates standing in the Norwich North by-election and people will go to the polls on Thursday.

Norwich News 24

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