Borders election candidates come in for questioning by students

The four contenders vying to be the UK Government’s next MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk were put through their paces in an unusual and often chaotic manner at a students’ hustings event yesterday, December 4.

Thursday, 5th December 2019, 1:27 pm
Calum Kerr ,Ian Davidson, Ann Letham, Jenny Marr and John Lamont at UK Government general election hustings held at Borders College in Galashiels.

Borders College hosted general election hustings for candidates for the seat at its Galashiels campus, and they were asked quickfire questions, took part in an interactive quiz game and had their knowledge of their parties’ manifestos put to the test.

Sitting Conservative MP John Lamont, Labour’s Ian Davidson, Liberal Democrat Jenny Marr and the Scottish National Party’s Calum Kerr were first asked quickfire questions such as ‘Dairy Milk or Galaxy?’ and ‘Gala or Hawick?’

After that light warm-up, candidates were read out sections of manifestos and asked if they could name the parties responsible.

Three of the candidates – Ms Marr, Mr Davidson and Mr Lamont – ended up on minus points after answering a succession of questions wrong.

Mr Kerr won with one point after only answering one question, and getting it right, in the buzzer game.

Next, the audience was asked to use their phones to login to the online interactive game website Kahoot. Each candidate was asked to give a 15 second answer on the same question, after which the audience could vote through the Kahoot website on their phones.

The results of each vote were displayed on a screen, and the winner of each vote was asked to move forward along a ladder on the floor, with a picture of Westminster at the end.

Mr Kerr won the race, thanks in part to the large number of SNP supporters present.

To end the afternoon, each candidate asked to deliver a 90 second speech to the audience.

Mr Kerr said: “Politicians always say that elections are important, but this really is such an important election.

“You need to decide who is going to represent you down in Westminster when big decisions are going to be taken, big decisions about Brexit, huge decisions about the climate change emergency.

“Whether you like it not, here it is between me and the Tories, and although John is the candidate, it’s between me and Boris Johnson, because every Conservative candidate has sworn to do exactly as they’re told.

“I will always stand up for the Borders, I’ll fight to protect your NHS from a Trump-Johnson trade deal, I will fight to ensure we meet the climate change emergency head on, and I’ll represent all of you at a local level too.

“Let’s not forget that the most important role of an MP is representing all of you as individuals, fighting your corner when you need help, making sure you get wages you can actually live on, and if you’re not in a job, stop the Tories going after you and penalising you when you’re already down.

“If you vote for me, I will be your champion at Westminster. I’ll always put the Borders first.”

Mr Davidson said: “We’ve had some fun, but it’s actually serious business. 25% of children in the Borders are living in poverty. In Hawick and Denholm, it’s 34%. Something has got to change.

“The only party, in my view, that’s got a manifesto that’s got policies for real change, is the Labour Party.

“Calum says ‘vote for me to stop him’, and the Tories say ‘vote for John to stop Calum’. It’s entirely negative.

“Vote to make a positive change. We’re saying £10-an-hour minimum wage for all ages, we’re ending zero-hours contracts, we’re in favour of public spending, we set up the National Health Service, we’re not going to discuss with the United States or anybody else about privatising it.

“If you want to make a real change about the climate, we have a real policy for a green revolution, where we’ll get jobs out of climate change.

“They need to be good jobs, well-paying jobs, unionised jobs, and we need to have them devolved and decentralised in areas like the Borders.

“The Borders cannot continue to have policies which drive people away.

“My generation left the towns because there were no jobs here. We’ve got to have better educational opportunities for youngsters in this area so they can get jobs that keep them here and pay them properly.”

Ms Marr said: “I’m standing because I’m furious with the way things are. I’m furious with the way things are at Westminster. I am furious with the fact that people in the Borders aren’t treated as well as they should and we don’t have the public services that we need.

“I’m 30. I might be young, hopefully, but I’ve lived a life. I’m a type-one diabetic, I’ve been through the NHS, I’m still going through it. I’ve been open about my struggles with mental health.

“I have stories to tell that I think will make the world a better place. I think they will make our little part of the world, our Borders, a better place.

“We have been very clear on the constitutional front – we want to stop Brexit and remain in the UK, but as this debate goes on, we have to remember that real life continues and there are people who need help.

“In my job working for an MSP, I have seen just how much people need good politicians. That’s what you’ll get from me – a voice for the Borders, a commitment to stay in the EU, to stay in the UK and to be a champion for people who feel like they don’t have a voice.”

Mr Lamont said: “It is an important election, as we heard, and I would agree with Calum that it is going to be between myself or him.

“Either myself or the SNP will be the representative for the Borders, and Nicola Sturgeon has made it very, very clear that she wants to see another independence referendum next year.

“I remember how I felt back in 2014 when we had the first independence referendum.

“I remember sleepless nights, I remember the division, I remember how our communities were split, how our families were divided on this very important issue.

“I also remember Nicola Sturgeon promising this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“We need to bring calm back to our society and to bring our country back together. I don’t want to see any more referendums, whether it’s on independence or whether it’s on the EU.

“We need to come together as a society, and a country, so we can move focus onto the big issues like climate change, like schools, like education, like the NHS or the transport system, or like roads or bringing jobs to the Borders.

“I want to get Brexit sorted. I want to stop the constant debate on divisive constitutional issues so we can focus on the things that really matter, so please remember to vote next week.

“It’s going to be a really important election and will decide the political make-up of our country for the next 12 months and beyond.”

Voters go to the polls on Thursday, December 12.