Election 2015: Voters quiz candidates for Brent Central in live social media hustings
PUBLISHED: 15:33 21 April 2015 | UPDATED: 16:40 21 April 2015
Voters across Brent took to their keyboards to grill the candidates battling to become their next MP in the first ever Brent & Kilburn Times online hustings event.
Scores of readers logged in via social media and the Brent & Kilburn Times website on Monday evening to post their questions and comments for the parliamentary candidates for Brent Central to a constantly updated live stream.
The hour-long hustings session, held in the Brent & Kilburn Times newsroom, saw Green Party Candidate Shahrar Ali, Liberal Democrat candidate Lauren Keith, Conservative Candidate Alan Mendoza and Ukip candidate Stephen Priestley go to head-to-head in responding to voters’ concerns ahead of the May 7 general election.
The participants were also joined remotely by Labour candidate Dawn Butler and Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate John Boyle.
Quick-fire questioning from voters covered a host of topics ranging from housing, school places and immigration to protecting local pubs and high streets from commercial development.
One of the most frequently asked questions focussed on crime levels, with reader Chris Jones asking “What would you say is the best way to solve gun and knife crime?”
The candidates agreed that crime in Brent needed to be tackled but clashed over whether a “zero tolerance” or more community-based solutions would be most effective.
The online ‘forum’ format also gave rise to some intriguing interactions, with one reader asking ‘Who is the politician living or dead, you admire most and why? Please do not say your own party leader!’.
The question prompted Ukip candidate Stephen Priestley to reply ‘Mahatma Gandhi’ and Shahrar Ali to quote his political hero Tony Benn’s phrase “This is not a protest; this is a demand!’.
Whilst the candidates locked horns over questions on privatisation and council services, there were also a number of questions- including one about giving voters the power to recall their MP and force a by-election- which prompted unanimous agreement, with all candidates saying it was “absolutely” a good idea.
The candidates agreed that social media hustings could be the way forward for engaging with voters, with one commenting: “I really enjoyed the virtual hustings and the opportunity to engage in real time with constituents on so many issues in such a short time.”
The Brent & Kilburn Times would like to thank the readers and candidates for taking part in a great evening of live discussion and debate. If you missed the action and would like to catch up on the debate the full stream is here.
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