All Saints Church Leamington
Image: Sarah Morland / The Boar

One week to go: General Election hustings take place in Leamington

With one week until the General Election, the five parliamentary candidates for Warwick and Leamington took part in a hustings in Leamington All Saints’ Church yesterday evening.

The hustings, attended by some hundred local residents, was hosted by the parish vicar Father Christopher Wilson. The event was followed by free tea and snacks in the church while candidates mingled with the prospective voters.

See full candidate interviews here:

  • Jonathan Chilvers, Green Party candidate and councillor for Leamington Brunswick
  • Bob Dhillon, UKIP candidate and former Conservative mayor of Warwick
  • Nick Solman, Liberal Democrat candidate and postgraduate student at Birmingham University
  • Matt Western, Labour candidate and councillor for Leamington Willes
  • Chris White, incumbent Conservative MP for Warwick and Leamington since 2010

The first question put to the prospective MPs looked into the role of faith in politics. Both Green and Conservative candidates Jonathan Chilvers and Chris White identified themselves as practicing Christians, while UKIP candidate Bob Dhillon, a Sikh, emphasised the affinity between the two religions. White added: “What is so special about Warwick and Leamington is that our faiths work so well together.”

Responding to a question on the healthcare crisis, recently re-elected Labour councillor and parliamentary hopeful Matt Western described the NHS as “one of the best healthcare services in the world and it is being decimated and broken up by this Conservative government.” He highlighted the need to reform the sector through both its funding and its organisation.

White dismissed the assertions that the NHS was being privatised, stating: “I say that is nonsense” and that “the rate of change is slowing down.” However, he was angrily shouted down by members of the audience.

On the issue of Brexit, UKIP’s Bob Dhillon responded with a fiery speech, noting “Europe has never been conquered by us anyway,” “will rebuild ourselves, we are stronger” and “we can conquer the world all together.” This was met with some laughter and scattered applause.

We need to be careful with Brexit until we know what it is. That’s why we want a second referendum once we actually know what the terms are.
Nick Solman, Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat candidate Nick Solman, a political theory postgraduate student at Birmingham, said: “Brexit hasn’t actually happened yet, so no one knows what it looks like or what the effects ware going to be. Till a deal is negotiated we don’t even know what the proposal is.”

“We need to be careful with Brexit until we know what it is. That’s why we want a second referendum once we actually know what the terms are.”

Chilvers accused Theresa May of “pursuing an irresponsible, extreme version of Brexit which could potentially drive us towards an economic cliff.”

Meanwhile, Western argued that Brexit would give the country the opportunity to rebalance the economy with greater emphasis on social and regional equality. He also emphasised the need for people with international experience to be involved in the negotiation process.

The Conservative candidate added that while he hoped to see a free trade deal, “you have to listen to the will of the people,” and “I am reluctant to call for a new referendum.”

Warwick District was alone in Warwickshire county to choose Remain in 2016, with 59% of the vote. Both the Conservative and Labour candidates supported the Remain campaign, with the former voting Remain as the constituency’s incumbent MP last June. However, White has consistently voted against the rights to remain of EU citizens already residing in the UK.

Both Green and Labour candidates supported raising the percentage of GDP spent on foreign aid from 0.7%, while Solman proposed to keep it the same and Dhillon advocated for cutting it down and reserving allocation for judgements made on a case-by-case basis: “We need the money for our own citizens.”

Conservative education policy has disrespected teachers time, and time, and time again, without strategy and ignoring experts.
Jonathan Chilvers, Green Party

The Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and UKIP candidates all condemned the government’s cuts to the education sector, with both Labour and Liberal candidates opposing new grammar schools.

Despite his party’s manifesto pledge to restore grammar schools, the Conservative candidate noted: “I’m not a fan myself of grammar schools. I do not think this is the better route toward improving all our children’s education; even on practical terms I don’t see how that would work.”

Chilvers added: “We need to treat teachers with respect. Conservative education policy has disrespected teachers time, and time, and time again, without strategy and ignoring experts.”

On air pollution, both Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates suggested schemes to reduce the number of diesel-fuelled vehicles on the streets and improve public transport, while the Green councillor suggested improving infrastructure along commuter journeys. White cited visits to the Warwick Manufacturing Group and the development of new technologies to monitor and combat pollution.

Chilvers, who helped set up Warwick and Leamington Foodbank four years ago, said: “We need services about more than food; we need to make sure people are paid properly, not exploited or pushed into false self-employment contracts.”

He added: “Unfortunately, Chris White is shackled to his party, forced to go along with the will of Theresa May’s Brexit.”

The incumbent MP concluded with the phrase: “Elections aren’t experiments. They aren’t political labs, where if you do X we see what will happen.”

A poll from YouGov, published yesterday afternoon, predicted that June 9 would see Chris White returned to his seat with 44% of the vote, a slight drop from 2015. Matt Western was predicted to place close second with 40% of the constituents’ support.

Interviews with the five candidates are available below:

For more information on where, when and how you can vote, alongside information on the other nearby constituencies, click here.


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