REPORT: General Election 2010

April 30, 2010 by  
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Prospective Parliamentary Candidates Meet with Villagers TWICE in One Week! 

Over 100 attended the HICCA General Election Question Time

Over 100 attended the HICCA General Election Question Time

28 April 2010: As the General Election campaign goes into overdrive in the last few days one clear fact emerged: our village is a top priority for the prospective parliamentary candidates.  For the second time in 6 days they came en mass to well attended hustings events to convince us that they and their parties are worthy of our votes.

With the dreaded words ‘hung parliament’  hanging over this general election, the lasting impression from both of those events was how much agreement there was among the candidates. There was no antagonism, no overt attempts to ‘point score’ at all costs, but a calm and thoughtful discussion on how to approach different problems facing the constituency and the country.  Many in the audience commented afterwards whether the real problem might not be the party system itself which thrives on endless childlike debating with little common purpose to solve real problems.

The first hustings, put on by St Andrews Church and held at IVC, was attended by over 60 perople.  The second, a ‘Question Time’ event, held last night at IVC and attended by over 100 villagers, was organised by HICCA (Histon Impington Climate Change Action group) and focused mainly on environmental issues. According to the candidates these two events were high on their favourite list winning high marks for the content of the questions and the organisation of the event itself.

Present at HICCA’s Question Time were: Simon Sedgwick-Jell (Green Party), Jonathon Chatfield (Liberal Democrats), Jim Paice (Conservative Party), Andy Monk (UKIP) and  Geoffrey Wollard  (Independent). Daniel Bell (Independent/Christian Party Alliance) and John Cowen (Labour Party) were also invited to attend. Bell sent apologies due to a conflict in scheduling and John Cowen did not attend due, possibly, to a dispute about his status in the Labour Party. Both were present at the St. Andrew’s hustings on the 21st along with Jim Paice and Jonathon Chatfield.

Not surprisingly, Impington resident Jonathon Chatfield (Lib Dems) was a favourite with the audience. He stood out from the start with answers that were designed to reveal more about himself as a person rather than just repeat the party line.

Steve Waters, noted playwright and chair of HICCA, moderated the Question Time. He explained that questions were divided into four categories: Transport, Energy, Development and Climate Change, Questions had been submittted in advance and by the audience at the event itself.  None of the candidates saw the questions ahead of the eventy. Each was given a up to 2 minutes to answer a question.  The honour of asking the first question from the audience was given to 10 year old Miro Hovius who asked: How can we get people to care more about the climate?  Miro is a student at the Histon and Impington Junior School and a memebr of theClimate Rescue Club, a lunchtime group that meets regularly to learn mre about climate change and what can be done to avoid a warmer world.

Key Points from the Question Time:

The candidates were asked to introduce themselves and tell the audience where they would like to see their constituency in 20 years time.  Not surprisingly the answers concentrated on development, housing and transportation:

Simon Sedgwick-Jell (Greens): It’s bonkers to concentrate all the development in Cambridge. People work in Cambridge but have to commute because they cannot afford the housing. He reminded us that the East of England is the most vulnerable part of the UK to climate change – whether from flooding or excess heat.

Andy Monk (UKIP): There’s has been lots of unplanned development in the region including destroying greenbelt. We need to stop building thousands of new houses as gov’t dictates. We need affordable housing for all, but on a much reduced scale decided by local needs.

Jim Paice (Conservatives): It’s not too far ahead given that Cambridge’s success has largely come about over the past 20 to 30 years. We need to stop top down planning for the region. Housing needs to be decided by local council.  The public transport issue needs addressing.  Then to much laughter he said: “By then both the guided busway and the A14 upgrade should be working!” We need to value the local landscape and our agricultural land, preserving this from development especially with the future increase in food requirements.

Jonathon Chatfield (LibDems): We need to be developing local communities with all the facilities they need – shops, pubs, schools, etc. and not just housing estates. For transport we need to be developing the use of cycle, bus and high speed rail.

Geoffrey Wollard (Independent): We cannot continue as we are. I’ve been a member of County Council since 1974 and such councils make mistakes which has led to the current state we are in locally. It’s a bad idea to divert development plans to local authorities. It’s wrong to concentrate development in certain areas only. We need to develop starter homes not starter hutches.

FIRST QUESTION:
The first question from the audience was posed by 10 year old Miro Hovius, student at the Histon Impington Junior School.  He asked: “How would you convince people to care more about the climate.” ( Editor’s Note: Miro spent time in Northeastern Greenland in 2008 with his family. They went to look at the record and impact of climate change on time scales ranging from hundreds of millions of years to human time.  The book ‘Journey into the Ice Age’ about this expedition was published in Norway in September 2009 and is being prepared for publication here.)Geoffrey Wollard (Independent): Human activity does affect climate. Population is a big problem. We need to work out how we can feed the expanding world population with finite resources.

Jonathon Chatfield (LibDems): People are waking up to environmental issues. We should listen to young people who are engaged, passionate and well aware of the problem.

Jim Paice (Conservatives): I agree with the other two comments. To engage the public to accept that it is necessary to change we need to do it in such a way that people want to change. You can have a nice car; it doesn’t need to be fuelled by oil. You can have a nice house without reliance on fossil fuels through the use of insulation. You can have change without too much suffering.

Andy Monk (UKIP): I also agree. People need to be encouraged to buy local food in season – it tastes better, reduces food miles and supports local businesses.  We need to have proper affordable electric cars for all.

Simon Sedgwick-Jell(Greens): I can’t disagree with anything that has been said so far, however, I don’t believe the parties will deliver on what has been said.  We need to convince people that greater affluence does not equal greater happiness.  The current message that having more things makes you happier needs to be undermined.

TRANSPORT:
To save time, several questions where then asked under a particular topic heading and candidates asked to choose which to answer.  The first topic was Transport. The questions: The future of the A14? How did they travel to IVC this evening? How and when will you prioritise cycling over other forms of transport?

Jim Paice (Conservatives): I arrived in a car but there were 4 of us in it. We need to improve the A14 as soon as possible but it’s going to be 2-3 years before work starts. It is essential to upgrade it even though we need other forms of transport. If we doubled the freight carried on rail we would only decrease road traffic by one year’s growth.  Cycle ways are important but they are the responsibility of the county councils.

Andy Monk (UKIP): I came in a car with one other person. The A14 needs improvement but we also need to increase high speed rail to move transport off the roads. The guided busway will help … eventually. (laughter) UKIP would veto the EU’s plan to introduce super lories to our roads. Cycle ways are very important but we need a balance between the needs of all road users including pedestrians.

Simon Sedgwick-Jell (Greens): I came by bus because my bike lights are dodgy and I couldn’t cycle home in the dark. I’m sure the press would have a field day with that if I had. The bus service is not fit for purpose. Last night I had to leave the hustings early to get the last bus or I would have been marooned.  Cyclists are treated as second class citizens for example look at the way cycle ways disappear at junctions like roundabouts where they are most needed for safety. The cost of the A14 upgrade is huge and traffic will just expand to match the increase in capacity.  It would be much better to invest this amount of money elsewhere.

Jonathon Chatfield (LibDems): I got here by walking since I only live a few minutes from IVC. The Lib Dems support a smaller, cheaper and quicker scheme for the A14 aimed at improving safety, for example, at junctions – not for increasing capacity. We need to move freight traffic to rail. I think there should be a pricing structure to decrease road where transport alternatives exist, but obviously not in areas where there is no alternative to car use. Off-road cycle ways are very important.  I’m a keen cyclist myself. We also need to improve road structures and speed limits to make cycling safer on the roads.

Geoffrey Wollard (Independent): I came in a car with my wife of 48 years, but no other women. (laughter and applause). The A14 needs improvement. The use of rail is not feasible in some areas. Cycle ways make more sense in Histon and Impington which is close enough for people to use for journeys into Cambridge.

A follow up question from the floor by a man who is a member of the ‘Speaking Up’ youth parliament: Would the Parties extend the use of bus passes to include disabled workers of working age during peak hour to allow travel to and from work?  There was agreement by the panel that the idea had merit even though none of the parties had a policy covering that.  Simon Sedgwick-Jell said he would not stop at bus passes for disabled and that we can learn from schemes in other parts of the world. For example, in Denver they put up sales tax by one-half percent and made buses free during off peak times and very cheap the rest of the time. Everyone thought putting bike racks on buses would be useful. Jim Paice said that contrary to rumour, the Conservatives would commit to keeping the free bus pass system.

ENERGY:
Energy Questions: Would you change the feed in tariff to include the early pioneers who installed renewable energy systems before July last year? What is your party’s target for the use of biofuels? Which biofuels would you approve? To meet our renewable power needs the UK will need either expanded nuclear power or massive wind farm. Which do you support?

Geoffrey Wollard (Independent): The increased use of biofuels means increased deforestation and increased growth of crops – not for food but for fuel. What we need to do is to economise on fuel use not expect biofuels to support the current levels of consumption. We need to increase both nuclear and wind farms – controversial but necessary – but not necessarily massive wind farms.  For example, I would happily cope with three or four wind turbines in my parish.

Jonathon Chatfield (LibDems): I have a problem with the sound bites nature of this format. There is much detail which needs to be discussed. Feed in tariffs need to be set at decent levels for everybody.  It’s necessary to listen to experts in these fields to decide on which type of fuels to use. I am nervous about biofuels and I don’t see them as a major solution. Critical decisions need to be made soon. We need to invest in renewables not old nuclear technology and we need to decrease consumption.

Jim Paice (Conservatives): We can’t rely on wind for all our power. We need to decrease our energy use. I support all renewables but nuclear is also a vital part of our strategy. I used to be very keen on biofuels but have changed my mind because of the problem of deforestation and the diversion of food crops. Energy production needs to be sustainable.  I would make the feed in tariffs equal for everybody except for those early adopters who have received a substantial grant. 

Andy Monk (UKIP): I share the misgivings about biofuels. We need to increase money for research into other alternatives such as hydrogen fuel cells. We should invest in new clean nuclear technology. Wind is not reliable. It only works out because of huge government subsidy, so nuclear is much better. [not true - ed] We do need to make feed in tariffs fair.

Simon Sedgwick-Jell (Greens): Remove, reduce, replace. We need to reduce energy use in both commercial and domestic settings, we could conserve 30% of energy with insulation. Nuclear is mad, expensive and a waste problem. Wind, solar, wave and other energy – we need to use them all. There is no magic bullet solution. Biofuels are destructive.

DEVELOPMENT:
Questions: Is it feasible to make all new houses built from 2016 zero carbon as is gov’t policy?  Are other parties and candidates going to succumb to pressure from the airlines and build a third runway at Heathrow? What will you do to encourage the development of efficient electric cars?

Simon Sedgwick-Jell (Greens): With regards zero carbon building we can learn much from Europe. They have much higher standards in Scandanavia. We shouldn’t bow to pressure from the building industry. We need to include standards for rebuilds and renovation because we have an unfit existing housing stock and that situation needs to be addressed. We don’t need any new runways. We need to decrease the subsidies on air travel and put an airmiles tax so that the real cost of air travel is paid.

Andy Monk (UKIP): We have 800,000 empty houses in the UK. We need to get those in use before building more. There is a zero carbon Tesco’s in Ramsey where I live.  It’s not feasible for all homes to be carbon neutral by 2016 and we need to see if the cost to achieve that for new builds is sensible. We would not increase the size of Heathrow but would build a new airport in the Thames estuary.

Jim Paice (Conservatives): We should stick to the 2016 target which is that all homes built from that year need to be carbon neutral. I’m more concerned about the existing housing stock. We will introduce an up front payment of up to £6500 for people to spend increasing the carbon efficiency of their home. It would be paid for over a 25 year period by the savings in their fuel bills.  We oppose a third runway at Heathrow and would block a second runway at Stansted and at Gatwick because we believe that we need to develop high speed rail services. We are also proposing incentives for electricity suppliers to create a network of charging points for electric cars.

Jonathon Chatfield (LibDems): I agree about new builds but we also need to help the existing stock become energy efficient. We will have grants to bring 250,000 houses online for use, no new runway, have a per flight tax not a tax per passenger which will encourage maximum passengers per flight. I agree with electric cars and charging points but we need to develop alternative transport as well.  

Geoffrey Wollard (Independent): The government has got some things right, for example, civil partnerships and no fox or hare hunting. Current building regs are much improved on 1960′s housing and is part ashamed and part proud of recent developments.

CLIMATE CHANGE – The Wider Issue:
Questions: Do you believe in climate change? How will you help community, agencies and residents? Can we afford to mitigate against climate change? How much resource will you be willing to commit? How do you restore confidence after the failure of the Copenhagen talks and the recent events at the University of East Anglia?

Simon Sedgwick-Jell (Greens): There’s been much misinformation from the media especially regarding the University of East Anglia. Equal time has been given to scientific evidence and skeptical views – the equivalent of giving equal time to those who still think the world is flat. Much is being done at local level but this is not helped sufficiently by government. Our taxes are lower today than they were under Margaret Thatcher. We have to accept that we cannot have Scandinavian level services with American level taxes. We cannot rely on jumble sale funding.

Andy Monk (UKIP): We need to have a balanced debate between man made climate change and natural climate change. The jury is out. UKIP would listen to residents and have referenda. We need to look at finances with reservations and examine from both sides. We need to decrease bureaucracy and red tape relating to the environment.

Jim Paice (Conservatives): I have received a lot of mail expressing the opinion that either climate change does not exist or is natural. However, these are all wrong. The vast majority of exerts worldwide believe in climate change and that the majority of it is manmade. To believe otherwise would be stupid. Even if the naysayers are correct, taking the precaution to do something is safer than doing nothing. Therefore we MUST invest. Feed-in tariffs and grants will help people solve their own problems. People respond better to the carrot than to the stick – incentives not penalties.

Jonathon Chatfield (LibDems): Climate change IS happening and man is mostly responsible. It’s significant that a number, I think 20%, of conservative candidates do not believe this. Conservative MEPs have moved position within the EU to join the ultra right wing group of non-believers. I would listen to groups like HICCA and similar.

Geoffrey Wollard (Independent): I think Jonathon is wearing a halo. I’m not convinced that climate change is happening but I believe an increasing population will have an effect on climate. There is no alternative to mitigating climate change, we must do it. Changing rates of taxation can affect behaviour.

Jim Paice (Conservatives): [Responding to Jonathon Chatfield] I’m not sure about the 20% figure. The Conservative Party policy is that climate change is happening and that man is largely responsible. The Conservatives forced a lot of the climate change bill through. It’s possible for Conservative MP’s to have a separate personal view from the party line. Conservative MEPs will vote with the climate change lobby in Europe.  They will introduce green taxes but decrease taxation elsewhere.

A big 'thank you' goes to Hollyoak Veterinary Surgery in Impington for their financial and technical support. Without it this website would not be possible.

Comments

One Response to “REPORT: General Election 2010”
  1. I enjoyed the hustings enormously and I, also, want to thank Hollyoak Veterinary Surgery, not only for their financial and technical support on the night, but also for saving the life of my terrier, Milly, some months ago. My wife, Sue, and our beloved Milly send very special thanks for this very special late-night service. We will not forget.

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