Ham&High hustings: Hornsey and Wood Green

IN one of their last opportunities to speak to the voting public en masse, the wannabe MPs for Hornsey and Wood Green took to the stage at the Broadway hustings last week. On Wednesday night at Greig City Academy, residents quizzed five of

Rhiannon Evans

IN one of their last opportunities to speak to the voting public en masse, the wannabe MPs for Hornsey and Wood Green took to the stage at the Broadway hustings last week.

On Wednesday night at Greig City Academy, residents quizzed five of the political candidates vying for your vote - incumbent Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, Labour's Karen Jennings, Conservative Richard Merrin, Green Party candidate Pete McAskie and Independent Stephane De Roche.

First up was the big question - if the election results in a hung parliament, which bed are you going to get into?

Ms Featherstone stuck by what she, like Nick Clegg, had said throughout - the people will decide.

"We have to wait to see what the electorate say - it should not be up to politicians to prejudge what the country is going to tell us on that day," she said. "We will work with the man on the moon to implement our key pledges."

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Both Mr De Roche and Mr McAskie agreed a hung parliament would be the best solution for the country, with the Green candidate saying it would be the closest we could get to smashing the two party system.

Ms Jennings claimed Mr Clegg had already indicated he would not work with Gordon Brown. Mr Merrin said he refused to play politics by claiming a vote for Lib Dems is a vote for Labour, but added he was concerned at the amount of "horse-trading" that could go on if parliament was hung.

When one questioner later insisted the panel say whether they would form a coalition with the Conservatives with a yes/no answer, Ms Featherstone refused.

Adam Jogee, a Haringey youth parliament member and first-time voter cheekily asked the panel: "I was six when the Tories left government in 1997, but despite this fact I have a huge concern and worry about the Conservatives. As a first time voter, which party should I vote for to ensure David Cameron doesn't become Prime Minister?"

After the laughter had died down - Mr Merrin listed reasons not to vote Labour, but was heckled by audience members demanding he instead give reasons to vote Conservative.

"I genuinely believe we offer the best hope for this country," he then said.

Ms Jennings urged Mr Jogee to vote Labour saying: "The Labour government has built the public services in this country up and we need to lock in that investment because if we vote in the other two parties they will knock it down."

However, Ms Featherstone countered: "There's a lot of scaremongering going on - I would say vote Lib Dem, get Lib Dem and vote Lib Dem for the real reasons of fairness."

But away from party politics, Green Mr McAskie said: "Vote for what you believe in, otherwise you will not get it."

Things turned local when one questioner expressed his - and the community's - concerns about the proposed redevelopment of Hornsey Town Hall, saying there was not enough parking or social housing and that the previously proposed cinema now looked unlikely.

Ms Featherstone said she would call for a review following community concerns, while Ms Jennings said movement forward was needed and that environmentally a development without a car park could be a good thing.

The idea of a parking-free development was echoed by Mr McAskie, who added there should be more social housing and more carbon-saving methods implemented.

Mr Merrin attacked the consultation methods of Haringey Council.

Independent Mr De Roche said he did not know where the Town Hall was - raising perhaps the biggest laugh of the night.

Later, on the question of a possible Trident replacement Ms Featherstone toed the party line saying a genuine review of the nation's defence strategy should include its highest cost item.

Mr McAskie said he and the Greens were against Trident, adding: "Appealing to other nations to comply with a non-proliferation treaty and choosing not to comply ourselves is hypocritical."

Mr De Roche also supported decommissioning the weapons for environmental reasons.

But Mr Merrin said the Conservatives would support a Trident replacement as no-one could predict how the world would be in 20 years.

Ms Jennings, a former member of CND said if she was elected - against the party line - she would not vote for a Trident replacement.

The candidates were also quizzed on subjects including maximum pay caps, housing and planning development as well as renewable energy and the number of days terrorists should be detained for.

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