Weston-super-Mare General Election hustings in brief – the best moments and biggest surprises on the night

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 June 2017

Conservative candidate John Penrose, Green's Suneil Basu, Labour's Tim Taylor and Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Bell. Picture: Eleanor Young

Conservative candidate John Penrose, Green's Suneil Basu, Labour's Tim Taylor and Liberal Democrat candidate Mike Bell. Picture: Eleanor Young


On Friday, four out of five of Weston-super-Mare’s MP hopefuls took to Weston College for a hustings debate, organised by the Mercury and the college. Here are the funniest moments and the best lines for those who missed it…

Best lines…

John Penrose (Conservatives) on Brexit: “We have to come together as a community because the referendum campaigns were divisive and we have to speak with one voice, as one nation, once more.”

Mike Bell (Liberal Democrats) on Brexit: “We have voted for departure, not the final destination. Democracy doesn’t stop after one vote.”

Suneil Basu (Greens) on how people feel about this election: “Most of us feel our vote doesn’t count. We live in a country where because of first-past-the-post why bother? We need a proportional representation system.”

Tim Taylor (Labour) on mental health provision for veterans: “Governments have all struggled to put something in place to combat post-traumatic stress disorder. We know the mistakes of the past and we are committed to rectifying them.”

Most light-hearted moments…

Suneil Basu got the first proper laugh of the night when the question turned to education and he said: “I am a school teacher, so I should do well on this one.”

At one point, John Penrose promised he was a ‘very hard man to ignore’. Tim Taylor was quick off the mark when he turned to him and replied: “Sorry, John, what was that?”

Mike Bell went over the allotted time a few times and was told off by chairman Simon Angear and time-keeper and reporter Eleanor Young.

Most contentious debates…

The so-called Snoopers’ Charter (the Investigatory Powers Act) proved a hard-hitting debate, coming in the week of the Manchester terrorist attack. The most contentious part of the act involves web companies storing everyone’s internet browsing histories for 12 months.

Tim Taylor said there was a ‘moral dilemma’ to balance the fundamental rights of privacy and security policies.

Mike Bell said it is ‘over the top’ and freedom of speech is what makes Britain such a good place to live.

Suneil Basu called the charter ‘mass surveillance’ and Orwellian.

But John Penrose opted otherwise, saying: “I find some of these comments extraordinary considering what has happened this week. It is vital that we move the kind of protections in our offline lives and we apply those in our online lives. Without it, some of the plots will continue to happen.”

Biggest surprises…

John Penrose admitting he would vote to repeal the fox hunting ban – after being pushed on the question several times.

All four also admitted this was the most ‘presidential-style’ General Election they had seen in the UK.

Mike Bell said: “I would urge people to not let politicians get away with things. Give people a hard time and keep on at us. It is so important. Think local, not national.”

Take a look at our live blog for the full round-up on everything the candidates said on the night. UKIP’s Helen Hims was invited but chose not to attend.

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