General election candidates went head to head to win your vote at hustings event in Harborough

Candidates went head to head as the general election race hotted up in Market Harborough on a wintry Thursday night (Nov 28).

Friday, 29th November 2019, 11:42 am
Far right, Rev Bryony Wood introduces the candidates. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

More than 150 people packed into the Methodist Church Hall on Northampton Road to see and hear the five candidates put through their paces.

Defying a cold, wet night, late-arriving constituents were forced to stand as the crowded two-hour hustings kicked off a fortnight before people go to the polls.

Setting out their stall, Liberal Democrat Zuffar Haq said he’d had a daughter born with cerebral palsy and he would fight for a better NHS as well as staying in the EU.

Chairman of the meeting Rev Bryony Wood. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Punching hard for Labour, Celia Hibbert said: “There’s got to be no more drinking from the well of hatred.

“It’s time to use my strong voice.

“Our economy needs reformation and our churches have become food bank depots.

“We don’t want a government that jumps into bed with Donald Trump.”

Busy scenes during the hustings at the methodist church. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Next up was Independent Robin Lambert.

Inspired into politics by meeting former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson, he is on a mission to finally make Brexit happen.

Conservative Neil O’Brien, battling to be re-elected as Harborough MP, said: “I want to thank people for braving the rain and coming here to support democracy.”

Declaring war on bad planning decisions, he warned: “We are building too many houses in the wrong places.”

Centre, Rev Bryony Wood with from left, Robin Lambert Independent, Neil O'Brien Conservative, Zuffar Haq Liberal Democrats, Darren Woodiwiss Green and Celia Hibbert Labour before the hustings at the methodist church. PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

Green Party candidate Darren Woodiwiss said: “I’m an environmentalist and an inveterate litter-picker.”

He said Harborough needs more police on the ground while Mr O’Brien said he’d fought to win local schools and hospitals more crucial funding.

Cllr Hibbert said too many families were being forced to pay “exorbitant rents” and insisted Naseby Square old people’s complex on the town’s Southern Estate should not be demolished.

Mr Haq called for cheaper bus fares and Leicestershire County Council to be handed more government cash.

Neil O'Brien

“This affects the very fabric of British society,” he said.

The temperature went up a notch as targeting Mr O’Brien, Cllr Hibbert said: “Our MP sat over there has voted repeatedly to reduce local government funding.”

She said it was “disgusting” not to take climate change seriously although Mr O’Brien, Mr Woodiwiss and Mr Haq all pledged that they are confronting it head on.

Moving on to the red-hot issue of the health service, Mr O’Brien vowed to dark mutterings in the audience: “The NHS will not be privatised and won’t be involved in trade talks with Trump.”

Anger flared over women in their 50s having to work until they are 66 or 67 to get their state pension.

Backing them, Cllr Hibbert stressed: “I want to be Harborough’s first ever woman MP and I’ll fight for fifties women.

Darren Woodiwiss

“This is a travesty and unacceptable.”

Mr O’Brien said the Tories had slashed unemployment and national debt as Mr Haq warned the UK’s economy would shrink disastrously if we leave the EU.

The Liberal Democrat also blasted zero hours contracts, Cllr Hibbert said no-one “should go hungry” and Mr Woodiwiss said it’s a “national disgrace that people are starving in this day and age”.

And the curtain came down at 9.30pm sharp as Mr Lambert cracked the gag of the night: “I’m a big supporter of the Cats Protection League and if cats had a vote I’d win by a landslide!”

Celia Hibbert
Zuffar Haq
Robin Lambert