Candidates questioned

Saturday November 30th 2019

Midlothian Hustings

From left to Right: Danielle Rowley, Labour, Owen Thompson, SNP, Rebecca Fraser, Conservatives and moderator Clare Smith. Photography by Lee Live: Photographer

Written by Midlothian View Editor, Phil Bowen

On Wednesday the Midlothian General Election Hustings 2019 were held at St John’s and King’s Park church. Organised by the Midlothian Federation of Community Councils, Eskbank and Newbattle Community Council and Midlothian View, the hustings gave the public chance to see and hear the candidates answer questions on a range of topics.

The hustings were moderated by Clare Smith from Midlothian. Clare works in Marketing and PR and has worked for both the Labour and SNP Scottish Governments and she is used to chairing meetings with politicians from multiple parties, keeping them on topic and keeping them brief, skills that proved to be required at the hustings.

Over 150 people attended the hustings.

Introductions

The evening began with each candidate introducing themselves. The four Midlothian Candidates are:

  • Danielle Rowley – Labour
  • Owen Thompson – SNP
  • Rebecca Fraser – Conservative
  • Steve Arrundale – Liberal Democrats

All four Midlothian candidates were invited to the hustings but unfortunately due to work commitments the Liberal Democrat candidate, Steve Arrundale, was unable to attend.

In the interest of parity, Clare Smith read out an introduction for Steve Arrundale;

“Originally from North-East England, I was educated at University in Leicester, have an MBA from Warwick University and have lived in the Lothians for 19 years in which time I have built a successful Management Consultancy working with Clients such as RBS, Lloyds, Sainsburys Bank and the UK Payments Administration.

“I am passionate about building a fairer economy by increasing investment and opportunity in the left-behind areas of the country and believe that this can be most easily done with the better investment of the Remain Bonus from staying in the UK and the EU.”

In her introduction Rebecca Fraser said:

“I intend to be an old fashioned constituency MP. I have been a case worker for a local MP and so I am used to dealing with people’s issues and that is what I intend to concentrate on.

“I oppose Scottish Independence and aim to get Brexit done”

Owen Thompson said:

“I was the constituency MP from 2015 until 2017 and feel as though I have unfinished business to deal with.

“For me being an MP has always been about representing my home. This is an historic election. The abdication of the current government to tackle poverty. Scotland has been ruled by a Tory government that it did not vote for 36 of the last 60 years.”

Danielle Rowley said:

“When I was asked to stand by the local Labour party in 2017 I asked myself how best can I help my area. In my time as your local MP my office has dealt with 4,600 cases.

“I am standing not just to about bring change to Midlothian but with the Labour party to bring about real change to the country.”

Top Three Priorities

The first question asked the candidates to what their top three priorities would be to help Scotland?

Owen Thompson said his first priority was ending austerity as he said that has had a knock-on effect on Scottish Government and the local council.

Secondly he would tackle wider agenda around Poverty. Universal credit he said was a shambles and a disgrace. He said Scotland needed strong voices in Westminster.

And his third priority is Scottish Independence.

Danielle Rowley said she too would focus on poverty as she said 1 in 4 children in Midlothian live in poverty.

She would also invest in public services as this investment had been reduced through austerity from Westminster and from the Scottish Government.

Her third priority is in tackling climate change ad investing in green jobs.

Rebecca Fraser said her first priority was to get Brexit done and oppose independence.

Her second priority would be to concentrate on local case work as it is the simple things that matter to people.

Her third priority would be the economy to increase prosperity as she said this was how we all gain.

In the subsequent discussion the topic of the NHS came up and Rebecca Fraser drew widespread laughter in the room when she said:

“The NHS is not for sale and I absolutely believe in the Prime Minister on the NHS.”

Why MPs?

The candidates then were asked “Why do need MPs as well as MSPs and local councillors?”

Danielle Rowley said that there was real confusion amongst the public as to what is devolved. Her office she said often gets visits from the public asking her to investigate an issue that is a devolved matter. She has a policy of not turning anyone away but try to help them or point them in the right direction. She likes to think that all parts of government are all working together.

Rebecca Fraser said she agreed completely with Danielle Rowley.

Owen Thompson said he was the only candidate looking to abolish MPs through Scottish Independence. But he said that all spheres of government should be working together and whatever is the best route should be followed.

Young People

The candidates were asked why there were not many young people at the hustings and what they would do to engage more young people in politics.

Danielle Rowley said that it was a shame that there not more young people present. She said she was the youngest Labour MP when she was elected in 2017 and that she very much supports the case for lowering the voting age to 16. Climate change is an example of the young understanding an issue an demanding action as it is their future.

Owen Thompson said that when people see the behaviour of politicians in Westminster and on Question Time constantly interrupting each other then it is no wonder that people are turned off politics.

Carbon Footprint

The candidates were asked how they would mitigate their carbon footprint as they travel to and forth to London.

Danielle Rowley said that she uses the train to get up and down to London.

Owen Thompson said that it was a balance between using the train and flying as he said it was important to have more time in the constituency.

Rebeca Fraser said that she was a real train fan and that she would definitely use the train.

Universal Credit

A question was asked ‘how can you answer the damage of Universal Credit?’

This brought widespread applause from the audience.

Rebecca Fraser answered first to say that she was now seeing good outcomes. She said she knew there were issues but that things were now improving.

Danielle Rowley said that Labour would scrap Universal Credit. She said that there were regularly a number of people I her constituency office asking for help with Universal Credit and she made the point that a lot of these people were in work.

She said that often people had money stopped because they had not filed in a form online but that these people did not have ready access to the internet to fill in these forms.

Owen Thompson said that he was in parliament when Universal Credit was being trialled and that the warnings from those trials were ignored. He too said Universal Credit needed to be scrapped.

He was scathing that people were expected to wait 5 weeks for their money and that often the response from others was to suggest they used their savings. He said this meant that others completely did not understand the situation people on Universal Credit find themselves in.

Closing Statements

At the end of the hustings the candidates were asked to give a closing statement

Danielle Rowley said that with 1 in 4 children in Midlothian living in poverty then this election gives an opportunity to make a real change in Midlothian by voting Labour.

Owen Thompson said that he had enjoyed the hustings and said that he thought it was important that the public had had an opportunity to challenge candidates, to have a discussion, to agree on some things and to disagree on others but importantly he was pleased the hustings had been conducted in a civilised manner.

Rebecca Fraser repeated what she had said at the beginning that she wanted to be an old fashioned constituency MP and concentrate on local issues and make Midlothian a better place.

 

Listen again

There were other questions at the hustings covering topics such as devolution, education and Brexit as well as several others. So if you would like to hear what was said then the entire hustings was recorded by Black Diamond FM and will be aired on Sunday 8th December at 3pm. blackdiamondfm.com

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