General Election 2019: Islington South & Finsbury hopefuls go head-to-head for your vote at Gazette hustings
PUBLISHED: 14:32 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 18:27 04 December 2019
Islington South & Finsbury election hopefuls traded verbal blows over Brexit and the climate emergency on Tuesday night.
But the candidates found some common ground on the need to properly fund mental health services.
If the turn out for the Gazette hustings at St Mary's Church - chaired by new editor André Langlois - is anything to go by, a December 12 poll won't repress the turnout, too badly, in the borough. Some 240 people packed out the hall for a heated debated, where the incumbent Emily Thornberry went head-to-head with Kate Pothalingam (Lib Dems), Jason Charalambous (Conservatives), Talia Hussain (Green) and Paddy Hannam (Brexit Party).
Asked whether saving the planet is more important than stopping Brexit, Ms Hussain said: "We are part of the echo system of the earth and if we undermine its capacity to regenerate and give life we undermine our own survival. But I think Brexit is a symptom of a larger disenfranchisement with politics. I don't think they're separate issues."
Mr Charalambous said the Tories have "strong climate change credentials" and said it's "nonsense" to suggest the two issues are "mutually exclusive", adding: "There is actually great hope Brexit will bring even more environmental advantages to us".
Ms Pothalingam added: "We can make the most impact on tackling climate change if we work together with other countries."
Mr Hannam said the suggestion we need to chose between leaving the EU or tackling the climate emergency is a "false dichotomy". He rounded on Mr Charalambous over his comments about leaving the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, saying: "Boris Johnson's deal doesn't give us control of our fishing waters."
He said the Brexit Party doesn't pursues climate change denial policies.
Ms Thornberry said: "There is absolutely no bigger crisis than the crisis facing the planet. We have an absolute responsibilty to take this seriously and be radical."
She argued Britain needs to be a world leader on this issue and touted Labour's climate policy's and plans for a green industrial revolution. She later added: "We are at a crucial moment in our history. We have a choice. It's as if Britain is stopping and we are holding our breath and waiting to hear what the public has to say - and the power is in your hands [...] Do you believe there can be another way with another radical future?"
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Mr Charalombous said Labour will "drag" Brexit "on an on for several more years", but the shadow foreign secretary said Labour would negotiate a better deal than Mr Johnson's within three months then put it to the people with an option to Remain,
She added: "I know this constituency will vote to Remain again and people can rest assured I will campaign to Remain."
She criticised the Lib Dems for ditching plans for a second referendum in favour of revoking 50 outright, but Ms Pothalingam drew applause when she said: "The Lib Dems have led the fight on the People's Vote for three and a half years. "
Mr Hannam, 22, a former Labour member, added: "If a second referendum is brought about millions will not only boycott that vote but probably never vote again."
On teen mental health provision, Ms Thornberry said: "Only one in four children or young people are able to receive help from a mental health professional. I see this all the time. People come to see me in crisis, but the crisis isn't bad enough and they have to wait until it' out of hand [to get help]."
She said Labour will make sure there's a councillor in every school, adding; "The stress of young people these days is completely different to previous generations - we must respond appropriately. It's not just children's mental health it's adult mental health, as well.
Mr Charalambous called it "a subject that touches all of us", but was heckled when he said the Tories have "increased funding to record levels".
An audience member asked how closely the candidates aligned with their leaders.
Ms Thorberry said: "Jeremy and I are good friends. I agree with his politics, his outlook and I'm very proud to be part of his team. We have discussions on issues behind closed doors and they can get heated."
But she said Mr Corbyn listens to people and has a collegiate approach to decision making, adding: "This is not a presidential election."
Some audience members laughed at Mr Charalambous when he said Mr Johnson "is a good man". The Tory attacked Ms Thornberry saying she started off on the right of the Labour with her "next door neighbour Tony Blair". She said: "No I did not - I was one of the who led the rebellion against Tony Blair."