Reading GE hustings 2019 at the Quaker Meeting House

From L-> R: Matt Rodda & Rachel Eden (Labour), Yemi Awolola (CPA), convenor John Crosfield, timekeeper Christina Hughes Nind, Imogen Shepherd-DuBey (Liberal Democrat), Jamie Whitham & David McElroy (Green).

An estimated 60 people attended the parliamentary hustings at the Quaker Meeting House in Katesgrove, Reading on Thursday 28 November. Candidates Matt Rodda and Rachel Eden (Labour), Jamie Whitham and David McElroy (Green), Imogen Shepherd-DuBey (Liberal Democrat) and Yemi Awolola (Christian Peoples Alliance, CPA) answered questions from the Reading public about the UK’s future relationship with Europe, a fairer society and the climate emergency.

Our future relationship with Europe

Convenor John Crosfield asked the candidates:

What would you push for your party to prioritise in this country’s future relationship with Europe?

Rachel Eden, Labour candidate for Reading West, said:

I believe you should judge a policy and a government on three things: does it make our lives better, does it make our society more united and does it make our country’s voice stronger in the world? […] I think that Brexit and the last four years has failed on all three counts […]

I think we need to quickly have a sensible deal that those of us on the ‘remain’ side can live with, and give a final say to people on that. Both Matt [Rodda] and I will campaign to remain, but not everyone agrees with us, which is why I don’t think we should just revoke […]

We can’t just pretend the first referendum never happened; give people a final say on the real deal, then we can move forward.and rebuild our relationships with our closest allies.

Yemi Awolola, CPA candidate for Reading East, said:

People voted to leave and we will honour that. However, five years after we’ve left, we’ll give the country another referendum and we’ll honour that one too […]

Imogen Shepherd-DuBey, Liberal Democrat candidate for Reading East, said:

Brexit has been the single most damaging thing that has happened to this country in my lifetime […] Freedom of movement is something that has to be maintained […]

I work in IT and half of my colleagues come from other European countries; they share their skills and help build our economy […] The EU has brought peace and prosperity for us; leaving diminishes our ability to respond to threats […]

The EU receives half our exports; this isn’t going to be replaced by countries thousand of miles away.

Jamie Whitham, Green Party candidate for Reading West, said:

Leaving the EU means that today’s young people will lose the opportunities [to be] free to work and live anywhere in the EU […]

We massively benefit from EU nationals working in the UK […] They provide more NHS services than they use, they pay in tax more than they claim in benefits.

My position is that we should remain in the EU after a people’s vote. If we do leave, I’d prioritise environmental change and protection in a future relationship with the EU, and not signing up to any environmentally harmful trade deals with the United States.

During questions, Rachel Eden clarified that the EU referendum for which the Labour party was campaigning would be run under the same conditions as the last one – a simple majority would win – but their party proposed that EU referendums afterwards would require a supermajority.

Imogen Shepherd-DuBey expressed asked if Labour candidates Rachel Eden and Matt Rodda would be prepared to vote against their party’s whip to support a ‘remain’ position in a new referendum. Rachel Eden stated that both of them would be willing to campaign to remain in the EU irrespective of their party leader’s official line.

Matt Rodda added that if it was not possible for the UK to stay in the EU, then the country needed to negotiate the closest possible deal, including a customs union and single market membership.

A fairer society

Convenor John Crosfield asked the candidates:

How would you work both in Reading and nationally to make society fairer?

David McElroy, Green Party candidate for Reading East, said:

We’re the fifth largest economy in the world, yet we’re the home to four million children living in poverty. In our cities, there are four thousand rough sleepers on the streets […] Nurses have to go to food banks to put dinner on the table […]

We, as Greens, want to build secure lives, We’ll do that through a universal basic income, we’ll simplify taxes to close loopholes and make sure everyone pays their fair share. We’ll redirect government spending away from ridiculous vanity projects […] towards things like libraries, pools and child centres.

We will transform our tax system so it can generate the funds needed to deliver public services, and a green new deal to deliver ongoing economic, social and climate justice.

Imogen Shepherd-DuBey, Liberal Democrat candidate for Reading East, said:

Contributions by migrants to our society are not being celebrated properly. We should welcome what people of different cultures and backgrounds can offer to our society. For years, Britain has been a place where people can come from other parts of the world and join in our culture […] but now, even within some political parties, there appear to be some very basic problems with racism and xenophobia.

[…] the Liberal Democrats want to introduce free childcare for people who work. A lot of people on low incomes with children have to make a decision whether they’re going to carry on working or not […] This often falls to women […] and [free childcare] would be a great leveller […]

We want to restore corporation tax to 20%. The Conservatives reduced it to 17% – why are large corporations paying less tax? We need funding to reduce our deficit and to pay for some of these things that we need. We need to restore support to our legal aid system, and people on zero-hours contracts deserve holiday pay, sick pay and a minimum level of earnings.

Yemi Awolola, CPA candidate for Reading East, said his party proposed an overhaul to the corporate tax system to fund supporting family values, training for marriage to reduce the divorce rate, £12 billion into the universal credit system, more support for prisoners re-entering society, and giving all employees equal access to share bonuses in the company they work for.

Matt Rodda, Labour candidate for Reading East, said:

I think we need to rebalance society to make it fairer. There’s deep inequality at the moment, and it’s got noticeably worse in the last nine years. We need proper investment in public services, including the NHS and the education system […]

We also need a fairer benefits system and an end to universal credit. Its obviously interesting to try to have a single benefit, but the way it’s been introduced has been completely wrong […] I feel it’s completely immoral to expect vulnerable people to wait five weeks for a basic payment.

During questions, Yemi Awolola added that it was shameful that people slept rough outside empty properties in Reading.

Matt Rodda added that the public funding formula for Reading was inadequate as it didn’t take the relative youth and lower income levels in the town into account. He added that he was in favour of a ‘fair deal’ on immigration, that he was an internationalist and wanted free movement of peoples between European countries.

The climate emergency

Convenor John Crosfield asked the candidates:

What would you push for your party to prioritise in dealing with the climate emergency?

David McElroy, Green Party candidate for Reading East, said:

I get very frustrated as a lot of people seem to think that declaring a climate emergency is an excellent way of appearing like you’re doing something whilst, in fact, you’re doing precisely nothing.

I’m really sick of talking about climate change, which we’ve known about for many decades, and taking no action except for incremental tokenistic things. I think the green new deal […] is ambitious and is doing something we don’t really have the choice [about]. Not doing the new deal is like deciding to not buy food because it’s too expensive.

A big, ambitious investment in green technology will set us up going forward […]

Imogen Shepherd-DuBey, Liberal Democrat candidate for Reading East (and currently a councillor for Wokingham Borough), said:

We’ve declared a climate emergency in Wokingham, but since then, nothing’s happened. We’ve had no advice from central government […] and we’re the last generation who can stop irreversible climate change […]

We should be investing in solar panels and electric [vehicle charging] points […] Our low-income households need to be insulated properly to reduce their carbon footprint. All new houses should be built carbon-neutral. We need to improve our public transport by making our buses electric […]

We need to do something now, but because we’re snarled up talking about Brexit, nothing’s happened.

Yemi Awolola, CPA candidate for Reading East, said:

We’ll build high-speed trains between cities […] We’ll encourage local councils to have ultra-low emission zones around city centres, schools and hospitals and encourage taxis and buses to be 100% electric. We’ll introduce a scrappage scheme for old diesel cars and vans […]

Matt Rodda, Labour candidate for Reading East, said:

Urgent action is needed right now. The only way to achieve that is through government intervention, working with business and private individuals. We will commit £250 billion to our green new deal, which will produce a huge electrification of transport […]

There are huge problems with our housing stock. We need an […] insulation programme where somebody from a government agency or council knocks on your door and offers you free insulation, rather than the failed market-based scheme set up by the coalition government, which relied on consumers initiative and which put lots of hurdles in their way.

We need urgent action that tackles the real problems and which makes it easy for people to adapt. We don’t need to change our lifestyle that much, but we need to invest in the electrification of vehicles and changing the energy supply to our homes.

It needs an active government, willing to get stuck in and make the change and to see the urgency of this. We have until 2030; the evidence shows that if we want to save the planet, we must limit warming by 1.5ºC, otherwise a series of possibly irreversible processes will start […]

During questions, Matt Rodda added that he had voted against Heathrow Airport expansion and that it was important to limit the growth in aviation travel. He said we shouldn’t be flying for travel within the UK and that a Labour government would invest in high-speed rail. He added that the growth in renewable electricity generation needed to continue, and that there was a scientific consensus that the planet was very close to a climate tipping point.

Rachel Eden said that climate change and social justice were interlinked.  She added that we had to hope we could still mitigate against the worst effects. “All it will take is all of us”, she said.

David McElroy said that one could view climate change as a moral challenge a decade ago, but now it was a matter of self-interest. “The tipping points are here and we must take action,” he said.


Convenor John Crosfield said that they had also invited Conservative party candidates Alok Sharma and Craig Morley, Liberal Democrat Meri O’Connell and Brexit Party candidate Mitch Feierstein. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrat had sent their apologies.


Links
  1. Reading’s general election candidates for 12 December
  2. General election hustings at RISC on London Street on Wednesday 4 December
  3. What constituency am I in?
  4. Reading parliamentary election notices 2019
  5. 2017 parliamentary election results
  6. Reading East candidates
  7. Reading West candidates
  8. Climate emergency at Reading Borough Council
  9. East and West Reading Conservative Party
  10. Reading Labour Party
  11. Reading Liberal Democrats
  12. Reading Green Party
  13. Brexit Party
  14. Christian Peoples Alliance