Wyre and Preston North’s would be MPs arrived at Bilsborrow village hall last week ready to field questions on topical issues posed by members of Brock Valley Churches Together.
Some 100 plus local residents turned out to listen keenly to the responses of Conservative candidate Ben Wallace, (who represented the constituency from 2010 and prior to that was the MP for Lancaster and Wyre for five years), the Green’s Anne Power, Labour’s Ben Whittingham, Liberal Democrats’ John Potter and Kate Walsh for UKIP.
The event was chaired by Kate Ashton from St Francis, Hill Chapel, Goosnargh and Fellside Team Rector Rev. Steve Cooper opened proceedings.
Questions had been submitted by church members before the evening but they were new to the candidates who were each given a opportunities to to concisely explain why they would be the ideal person to champion Wyre’s needs in parliament, what got them into politics and their political goals.
With topics discussed ranging from fracking, dairy farming, food banks and the future of church schools to the economy, future housing and Europe, the differences in philosophy and thinking between candidates soon became apparent.
Kate Walsh explained she was reading from policy information documents because she was new to the whole arena of political campaigning.
Meanwhile Anne Power, dressed distinctively in green with a green hairband. declared “I’m not expecting to get elected. I would be very, very exhausted if I was, but I am here to try and make a dent in the vote.”
She stressed she wanted to make people really think about the important issues of the day and look for solutions. At one point the former Bleasdale resident declared: “Nobody mentioned the bankers.”
Liberal Democrat John Potter cited his early passion for politics and four and a half years experience as a local councillor,describing himself as a rugby player who was not going away, but would keep an eye on things whatever the outcome of the election declaring if he could not be an MP he would be “a thorn in the side of the MP to make sure they stay honest and true.”.
Ben Whittingham stressed his local credentials and declared:”I am born and bred right here, right in Garstang in the heart of the constituency. I’m campaigning here because I believe we need a fairer and more cooperative society.”
In a wide ranging introduction he cited the need to end bedroom tax, create living wages and job security with regular hours, end the gender gap in employment and said he wanted ”a better deal for young people and a fairer cleaner politics”.
Ben Wallace took a more philosophical approach telling the audience in his opening words: “I believe individuals can do amazing things when they are left to be free. I think individuals can do great things if the state doesn’t control what they do.”
Stressing the virtues of self reliance and noting he had been inspired by his parents’ example. he said : ”I believe ..we have to make our way.” Kate Walsh meanwhile raised the banner for “direct democracy” explaining: “I started going to the Preston branch UKIP meetings a couple of years ago because their campaigns struck a chord with me with campaigning for direct democracy and using referendums....most importantly I feel the public should have the chance to vote for UKIP.”
In turn each candidate drew applause for particular points made.
Perhaps the most telling question was when candidates were quizzed on how effectively they would represent constituency needs with the question whether a vote for the candidates was a vote for them or their party.
The audience age range was distinctly unmixed - with the majority of the audience in the over 40s bracket, perhaps reflecting both the demographics of the constituency and of church attendance.
After all the talk there was one declared result on the night .... a voluntary collection to raise funds for those afffected by the disaster in Nepal raised £215.
* Polls for parliamentary and local government elections open tomorrow at 7am and close at 10 pm.