WATCH: Welwyn Hatfield candidates go head to head in University of Hertfordshire hustings

Welwyn Hatfield parliamentary candidates left to right: Rosie Newbigging for Labour, Oliver Sayers f

Welwyn Hatfield parliamentary candidates left to right: Rosie Newbigging for Labour, Oliver Sayers for the Greens, Grant Shapps for the Conservatives and Paul Zukowskyj for the Liberal Democrats. Picture: Supplied by all the candidates respectively. - Credit: Archant

Parliamentary candidates have been quizzed ahead of the General Election in a hustings held at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield.

The Welwyn Hatfield hustings was held at the College Lane campus on Tuesday, December 3, with all four candidates - Labour's Rosie Newbigging, the Green Party's Oliver Sayers, Conservative Grant Shapps and Paul Zukowskyj for the Liberal Democrats - answering questions from the public.

In the wake of the event, the WHT asked each candidate to reflect on the night.

Ms Newbigging said: "I was delighted to take part in the hustings. I think it was very clear from the show of appreciation to my answers that the people attending want real change and a Labour MP for Welwyn Hatfield.

"What was really striking from the voting by the audience is that this election is not just about Brexit. It is about immediate and radical action to tackle climate change, rescuing the NHS from Tory cuts and privatisation, taking care of the most vulnerable in our society, decent homes for all, the best possible start in life for our children and young people and ending widespread poverty and homelessness.

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"I am ready to serve the interests of the people of Welwyn Hatfield in Parliament and transform our society to deliver real change for the many, not the few."

Mr Sayers agreed that Brexit was not at the forefront of people's minds. He said: "I felt that the hustings was a great opportunity for local people to air the issues that matter for them.

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"It was noticeable that the answers that I and others candidates gave that suggested positive changes for people in Welwyn and Hatfield in regards to housing, health care and education were met with warm applause.

"Despite what we have been repeatedly told over the last few years, Brexit was less of a concern than has been hyped - with few members of the audience rating it as the main influence on their vote; therefore it was positive to talk about issues that actually will bring about meaningful impact on the lives of constituents.

"It definitely felt like people in this area are ready for a change."

Meanwhile Mr Zukowskyj lamented the number of empty seats, saying: "I thought the hustings were well organised and managed, although it was disappointing to note so many empty seats especially as I know a couple of people who wanted to come but found the online booking system suggesting it was fully booked out.

"It was interesting to see that fully half the audience seemed to be political activists, I think the engagement with 'the public' was pretty limited. Most activists seemed to be Labour members.

"The questions were reasonably wide-ranging but there did seem relatively little on Brexit, especially given the adverse impacts it may well cause and is already causing to the whole university sector.

"I enjoyed the opportunity to be challenged on our policy, it's a shame that the event couldn't have been longer."

Mr Shapps also agreed more unaffiliated people could have attended. He said: "It's good of the University of Hertfordshire to host the hustings which were very well chaired by Vice Chancellor Professor Quintin McKellar.

"The vice chancellor made a point of asking whether the debate had changed any minds at the end and not a single person put up their hand.

"Given that many of those present were local councillors and activists from Welwyn Hatfield's other political parties, it might be interesting to encourage more non-affiliated member of the public to attend similar hustings in the future.

"My thanks to the university and the other panellists for what was generally a good-natured debate in which answers were properly heard."

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