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Bristol Central Hustings: ‘Democracy, ladies and gentlemen’

On Monday night all six candidates to become Bristol Central’s member of parliament were in attendance at a hustings held by Bristol 24/7 at the Lantern Hall. Read what they had to say here.

From Left to right: Carla Denyer, Thangam Debbonaire, Samuel Williams, Martin Booth, Robert Clarke, Kellie-Jay Keen, Nicholas Coombes // Photograph: Jake Paterson

By Jake PatersonMusic Editor

On Monday night all six candidates to become Bristol Central’s member of parliament were in attendance at a hustings held by Bristol 24/7 at the Lantern Hall. A final chance to highlight key policies to the electorate before the General Election tomorrow, the issues discussed by the candidates in most detail were racial equality, arts and culture, social media, and the sale of arms to Israel.

Chaired by Martin Booth, Editor at Bristol 24/7, each candidates was given time to discuss the issues that matter most to their party in their opening and closing statements and received questions from the audience. Issues not discussed at length included housing and the cost of living, transport, education, climate change, the NHS, the economy, and immigration.

The audience present was heavily skewed to support both Labour and Green candidates with the other candidates receiving moderate, little or no applause. The event was also preceded by a protest about the presence of Party of Women candidate Kellie-Jay Keen at the debate from trans rights activists.

What follows is a summation of the issues talked about by each party, arranged in
alphabetical order of the candidate’s surname.

Robert Clarke, Reform UK

Clarke spoke widely on the importance of freedom of speech, the fight against Fascism, funding for the arts starting from grassroots instead of being given to the select few, and denied the existence of climate change and criticised the implementation of lockdowns in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nicholas Coombes, Liberal Democrat

Coombes argued for an intersectional approach to equality in a way that encompasses education, health, crime and the economy. He was open about his party’s desire to renegotiate with the European Union and restore a working relationship with them, noting as an example the current barriers for touring musicians when performing in Europe that could be brought down. Coombes stated a desire to implement a proportional representation voting system and also proposed a rise in taxes for social media companies to fund mental health workers in schools.

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour

Debbonaire spoke about her party’s plans to bring in the Race Equality Act, rebuild the creative economy in her position as the Secretary for culture, media and sport if elected on Thursday, and emphasised the work she has done locally during her time in office, including opening bus routes and local dentists. She criticised the Green Party’s marketing claims that Labour has plans to privatise the NHS, which she adamantly denied.

To read more about what Thangam offers, read our interview with her here.

Carla Denyer, Green

Denyer emphasised the importance of having a Green voice standing up to the incoming Labour government in parliament and spent her time discussing stronger regulation on social media, supporting grassroots arts venues including museums and libraries to platform the next generation, and working to reduce knife crime through properly funded youth services, mental health support in schools and providing good quality accommodation for all.

To read more about what Carla offers, read our interview with her here.

Kellie-Jay Keen, Party of Women

Keen dedicated her time to discussing the importance of single-sex spaces, repealing the Gender Recognition Act, changing the school curriculum in relation to non-binary identities, and ensuring freedom of speech on social media channels.

Samuel Williams, Conservative

Williams outlined that bold action is required to stand up to discrimination in the constituency and that we must celebrate its diversity. He identified that increasing the funding for rail and bus transport could serve the creative industry and called for greater regulation of social media to protect freedom of speech and its most vulnerable users. Williams admitted that the past 14 years of Conservative leadership has been difficult, but that the party is ready for change.

The full debate can be replayed below.

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