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Candidates face off at King's Lynn election hustings

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Brexit, the environment and local connections were among the items for discussion as election candidates faced the voters in Lynn.

Nearly 100 people attended a hustings event hosted by the Lynn News, in conjunction with King’s Lynn Churches Together, at the London Road Methodist Church last night.

The four candidates bidding to succeed retiring MP Sir Henry Bellingham in the North West Norfolk constituency appeared on a panel chaired by Lynn News news editor Allister Webb.

Hustings at Methodist Church in Kings Lynn..left to right James Wild, Rob Colwell, Allister Webb, Michael de Whalley and Jo Rust. (21978921)
Hustings at Methodist Church in Kings Lynn..left to right James Wild, Rob Colwell, Allister Webb, Michael de Whalley and Jo Rust. (21978921)

And Conservative candidate James Wild said he would build on Sir Henry’s “excellent” record if he wins on December 12.

He described the election as “crucial” and argued voters had a clear choice this time around between delivering Brexit under Boris Johnson or “dither and delay” with Jeremy Corbyn.

He added: “I want to leave behind the last three and a half years of bitterness and rancour in our politics so we can focus on the issues that really matter in your day to day lives.”

Hustings at Methodist Church in Kings Lynn. (21978920)
Hustings at Methodist Church in Kings Lynn. (21978920)

But, as he set out his pitch and his Norfolk background, having been born in Norwich and brought up in North Walsham, his opponents emphasised their West Norfolk credentials.

Labour’s Jo Rust claimed her party would make a positive difference to most people.

She added: “This place is my home. I live here and I love living here and I care passionately about our town and the surrounding area.

“I’m an all the year round campaigner for the services we need. I don’t just pop up for an election.”

Hustings at Methodist Church in Kings Lynn. (21978919)
Hustings at Methodist Church in Kings Lynn. (21978919)

The Green Party's Michael de Whalley described himself as a "proven champion of numerous local issues" and argued the borough was uniquely vulnerable to the threat of climate change.

He said: "We have unique problems in West Norfolk. We have been underfunded for a very long time and it shows. We really need a local representative."

And the Liberal Democrats' Rob Colwell described living in the area for most of his life and his work as a Lynn-based solicitor during his pitch.

General Election 2019 (21647885)
General Election 2019 (21647885)

"I am a proud Norfolk citizen, a proud British national and a proud European.

"I want to stop Brexit. I hate the division it has caused and I want our amazing country to bounce back and be strong again. I want us to return to the open and tolerant society we know and love."

During the debate, Mr Wild came under fire from the audience over the government's record on issues such as climate change and the NHS, and gave an incorrect figure when he was questioned on the level of the minimum wage.

One speaker told him: "You've had 10 years. You won't be getting my vote."

Another raised the case of his 93-year-old great-grandmother, who he said had spent three hours waiting in an ambulance to be admitted to hospital on Monday, while the meeting was also told that several people had taken their own lives because of the impact of welfare reforms.

Mr Wild said the current problems in areas such as mental health provision were "unacceptable", but insisted that he could be the "strong voice" that the area needed to bring in increased investment.

Mrs Rust also faced criticism from voters who described her party's spending plans as "Alice in Wonderland" and warned they would bankrupt the country.

She dismissed that claim as "nonsense" and pointed out the Conservatives' shift in financial approach as she insisted her party's spending plans would stand up to scrutiny,

And Mr Colwell was questioned both over his party's links with fracking and its role in the coalition government.

He said he had raised questions with colleagues after joining the party in 2016 and argued that they had prevented a number of cuts which the Conservatives subsequently imposed when they were in government on their own.

You can recall the night through our live blog here.

And the candidates are due to face each other again in a further hustings event at Heacham's parish church on Tuesday, December 3, at 6.30pm.

That event will be chaired by the new Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham Usher.

Anyone interested in submitting a question is asked to email hustings.heacham@gmail.com by Sunday, December 1.

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