Islington North candidates grilled over housing and benefits

Candidates for Islington North stand behind hustings chair Richard Rieser as the get ready to be gri

Candidates for Islington North stand behind hustings chair Richard Rieser as the get ready to be grilled by the audience - Credit: Archant

Candidates put on the spot over nuclear weapons, the environment and inclusion in education

Nuclear weapons, housing and EU membership were just a few of the topics discussed as Islington North’s parliamentary candidates were grilled at the Gazette’s hustings on Monday.

Scores of voters of all ages were at Islington Arts and Media School (IAMS) to quiz the commons hopefuls on both party policies and personal priorities.

UKIP’s Greg Clough told the audience he wasn’t a politician, but rather “just a voter who found that whether I voted this way or that way, nothing had changed.”

Mr Clough, originally from Australia, said that the main reason he chose to join UKIP was his belief in “an imbalance in our relationship with Europe”.

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Labour Candidate Jeremy Corbyn, said that housing would be the main issue he would campaign on if re-elected.

“I would like to see regulation of the private rented sector, decent conditions and security of tenure. If elected this is the first thing I would try and do.”

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Meanwhile Socialist Party candidate Bill Martin dismissed the other five candidates as representatives of the “capitalist party”, saying: “They can only act in the interest of the people who run the world.”

Tory hopeful Alex Burghart was full of praise for the current government and, in response to a question on benefit sanctions, said he believed they were necessary. “We [the Conservatives] will always make sure you are better off by taking work than by staying out of it,” he said.

But Green Party candidate Caroline Russell said that benefit sanctions “make it harder to go looking for work... They take away money that could be used to get the bus to a job interview”.

Asked about inclusion for disabled children in schools, Lib Dem representative Julian Gregory said that, other than in a “small number of cases” where severe disabilities raise issues, inclusion was “better for disabled children and the rest of the school”.

In questions surrounding foreign policy and defence there was agreement amongst all accept Mr Burghart that Trident should be scrapped with Mr Gregory saying he would like to “put all that money into education”, while all but Mr Martin said that they were opposed to cutting the defence budget, with Ms Russell praising the army for work during the floods and the Olympic Games.

On the environment and clean air Mr Clough said he would like to see busy roads like Oxford Street pedestrianised, while Mr Burghart praised Mayor Boris Johnson’s cycle super highways and said he would help promote cycling in London.

Jeremy Corbyn said that despite also promoting local issues he believed it was important to stand up for human rights, stating: “I’m disgusted that 3,000 people died last year trying to cross the Mediterranean.”

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