Drugs, gangs and UKIP’s arts policy debated at Islington hustings

The candidates take a grilling at the Islington South and Finsbury hustings

The candidates take a grilling at the Islington South and Finsbury hustings - Credit: Archant

Drugs, gangs, prostitution and UKIP’s policy on the arts were all under discussion at a lively political debate on Monday night.

More than 120 people packed Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio, in Rosebery Avenue, for the Islington South and Finsbury hustings.

All six candidates attended and were kept in line by chairman David Gibson, from the Islington Society.

The action kicked off with introductions. Pete Muswell (UKIP) said he was a former Lib Dem supporter who had changed his mind, partially due to “unchecked numbers coming into this country”, although he pointed out he had three mixed-race grandchildren.

He said: “The fact is I feel almost obliged to say that to prove I am not a racist – nothing could be further from the truth.”

Fellow political newcomer Jay Kirton, standing for a one-issue party CISTA to legalise cannabis, told the crowd “three weeks ago I had no interest in politics” but now was “very, very passionate”.

His party would “appease people who don’t feel part of the system and will riot if things don’t change”.

Most Read

To the first question on austerity, the Green Party’s Charlie Kiss said: “It’s an ideological attack, it’s not necessary. Think of 1945; we set up the NHS and built social housing. Reducing the deficit doesn’t have to be rushed in record time.”

The debate heated up in response to a question on youth knife crime that’s blighted Islington recently.

Mr Kirton, who grew up on Archway’s Elthorne Estate and was part of the area’s notorious Busy Block gang, said he had first hand experience and some of his pals were involved in the killing of Andrew Jaipaul in 2011.

He said: “I was part of a gang, but I got a chance to change, not everyone does. A lot of my friends are in prison for life for a murder on the Andover Estate. They weren’t doing it out of choice – they didn’t feel integrated. We would make people feel part of the community.”

Emily Thornberry, for Labour, called for more education on how a young person “can end someone’s life and completely change their own with a few seconds of thoughtlessness”.

Mark Lim (Conservative) advocated the use of a tough new anti-gang programme implemented by the Mayor of London. Terry Stacy (Lib Dem) said people should admit Islington had a gang problem, and advocated cracking down hard on dealers and suppliers.

Meanwhile Mr Muswell called for “zero tolerance” and even a nonmilitary form of national service.

A question about the future of the NHS brought some anti-PFI jeers when Ms Thornberry claimed Labour had built new hospitals during their time in office to replace “what were basically workhouses”.

One angry punter called her out about the notorious Rochester tweet that eventually saw her resign from the shadow cabinet.

He said: “What did you mean by that Tweet? Can you explain that to me? Because I have voted Labour since the age 18 and I am so disenfranchised. You are a snob.”

When the furore died down, Mr Muswell called for old-fashioned matrons, and said the NHS was being “abused by people who come here”. “It’s not the international health service” he said, “and I don’t want to pay for others who haven’t contributed.”

Other notable heckles included Mr Kiss being asked if he supported legalising prostitution, to which he replied “I’m in favour of protecting women” and Mr Stacy asking Mr Muswell what UKIP’s creative arts policy was – Mr Muswell said despite being a big fan of the arts, he had no idea.

And when attention turned to a royal commission into legalising drugs, only Ms Thornberry said she was against.

Don’t miss the Islington North hustings, at Islington Arts and Media School, Turle Road, Finsbury Park on Monday night from 7.30pm