The seven candidates for the Halifax seat in the general election took part in a hustings at Halifax Minster.
Those involved included Conservative candidate Philip Allot, Liberal Democrat Mohammad Ilyas, Christian Party “Proclaiming Christ’s Lordship” Trevor Bendrien, Respect Party, Asama Javed, Labour’s Holly Lynch, UKIP’s Liz Phillips and the Green Party’s Gary Scott.
Chaired by Tom Butler, a retired Bishop and former member of the House of Lords, the hustings was organised as part of the Minster Series, a sequence of events that have taken place over the last few months in the 500 year old church.
Each candidate was given four minutes to present their case before answering written questions from the audience.
The topics included the privatisation of the NHS, the role of religion in government, the ongoing crisis between Israel and Palestine and the planned closure of Halifax A and E.
Speaking first, Philip Allot echoed statements made by the Prime Minister, tying the concerns of Halifax people in with the current Government’s ‘long term economic plan’.
He said: “This is possibly the most important general election in a generation.
“The country is growing fast and here in Halifax, unemployment has fallen by 39 per cent.”
Holly Lynch spoke of her concern for the younger generation.
She said: “Young people have been quite hard done by over the last 5 years.
“I want to stand up to stand up for young people across Halifax.”
Trevor Bendrien, Chairman of the Halifax Street Angels, urged members of the public to help community groups with the town’s litter problem to applause from the audience and agreement from all party members.
He said: “You should come out at four o’clock in the morning with the street angels.
“Halifax is a state at that time, but by 8 o clock it is immaculate – and they’re all volunteers.”
All party members vowed to fight against the potential closure of Halifax A and E.
Mohamed Iiyas said: “The Liberal Democrats believe in the NHS.
“We want to give equal attention to mental health and I want to ensure that Halifax A&E stays open.”
Asama Javed agreed with his statements.
She said: “We must protect the NHS at all costs.
“We spend 100 billion on nuclear weapons which could be spent on hospitals.”
Liz Phillips, spoke frankly about UKIP’s perception as a racist party.
She said: “We are not a racist party.
“The only thing that UKIP stands for is some sort of control so that the infrastructure of this country can cope.”
On the topic of the environment, each candidate aside from Liz Phillips, vowed to match a recent pledge by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband to work across party lines to prioritise climate change.
Gary Scott said: “It’s all about trying to use the resources that we have usefully.
The Green Party is a practical party that wants to work with what we current have – because it won’t be here forever.”