Sparks fly between Bristol West Election candidates at SU hustings


By Benjamin Salmon, Deputy News Editor

Two contenders to be the Bristol West Member of Parliament traded blows at an eventful hustings hosted by Bristol SU on Friday evening.

Election season brought out the fight in the parliamentary hopefuls for Bristol West on a rainy night in the SU.

On an evening full of cheering and jeering, heckling and applause, it was unclear who won over the room with both Green Party and Labour support flooding an audience which included former Green Party leader, and member of the House of Lords, Natalie Bennett.

Conservative Party and Brexit Party candidates for Bristol West – Suria Aujla and Neil Hipkiss – declined to take part in the event.

The Liberal Democrat candidate, James Cox, stood down in the constituency in October after the Greens and Liberal Democrats struck a deal to stand down candidates in certain seats - known as the 'Unite to Remain' alliance.

Green Party challenger, Carla Denyer, accused Labour of playing hard to get by not signing up to the 'Unite to Remain' alliance while Thangam Debbonaire, the Labour incumbent, accused the Greens of having no answer to what would be on the ballot paper in a second Brexit referendum.

On Brexit, Mrs Debbonaire defended her record in Parliament since the referendum, arguing she had ‘literally helped stop Brexit three times’, to big cheers from the audience.

Ms Denyer retorted, saying that a vote for Mrs Debbonaire, and therefore for Labour, was ‘not a vote for a Remain party' - in reference to the mysterious Brexit position of Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Bristol West is estimated to have voted 79.3% in favour of Remain at the 2016 referendum.

Climate change is an area both candidates have a pedigree.

Ms Denyer preached a ‘Yes to Europe, no to climate chaos’ mantra while Mrs Debbonaire argued that Labour’s carbon-neutral target date of ‘the 2030s’ was both realistic and radical.

As a Green councillor for Clifton Down, Ms Denyer was also keen to make it known how it was she who proposed the first motion in the country to declare a climate emergency.

Both Labour and the Greens also share common ground on drugs policy.

Mrs Denyer said the Greens would focus efforts on support, not criminalisation while Mrs Debbonaire highlighted her Labour Campaign for Drugs Policy Reform.

Labour won this seat in 2015 with Mrs Debbonaire defeating Liberal Democrat incumbent, Stephen Williams, with a majority of 5,673 votes.

At the 2017 General Election, Mrs Debbonaire extended her majority to a lofty 37,336, making Bristol West one of the safest seats in the country.

The Greens came third by a long way two years ago. However, their chances are still quite high with Bristol West being their number one target seat at this election.

Featured image credit: Epigram / Benjamin Salmon

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