Massive turnout – must have been 200+ there. Average age probably 60! Saw two young people (like, under 30!)

Each candidate gave a short intro speech (and a summary ‘vote for me’ speech at the end).
Then 8 pre-selected questions (from 80 submitted) asked by the public. Each of the five candidates had 2 minutes to answer and then the question-asker gave their opinion on the responses.

The questions were all extremely good: detailed and highlighting the main problems faced by people in the country as well as covering the main issues at play in this election.
The questions were about:

1. Brexit (although it was actually a very good question about poverty and the ‘race to the bottom’).
2. Health, the NHS and Poole Hospital/A&E
3. Climate Change
4. Affordable housing
5. Funding cuts for schools and youth services
6. Social mobility (lack of)
7. Social care and elderly care
8. Politicians’ lies and ‘unrealistic’ promises

The questions themselves were a shocking indictment of how this country has been decimated by 10 years of Tory rule!

I’m not going to write a long thing about how each of the candidates answered the various questions. I am just going to provide a subjective opinion on how each candidate fared overall. This is purely my own opinion and obviously I am biased.

1. Joseph Green (Independent) – Young guy; works at Weymouth College; shorter answers than others and lacked substance/depth of knowledge but some positive ideas and said he was standing to encourage young people/students to be actively involved in the political process.

2. Nick Ireland (Lib Dem) – I thought he spoke very positively about the damaging effects of 10 years of Tory rule; obviously promoted revoking Article 50 and using cost savings to enhance public services; Came across as very knowledgeable, compassionate and credible and I liked a lot of what he said (especially as he was critical of the Tories and the increasing levels of inequality). Mentioned Jo Swinson. Shouldn’t have! 😊

3. Jon Orrell (Green) – I thought Jon (who is a GP) was exceptional throughout the evening! His criticisms of the government’s policies were rooted in his experience of their effects on ordinary people and people pushed into poverty, sub-standard housing and ill-health. Used an excellent medical analogy to demonstrate the disease of greed and the ‘misdiagnosis’ of Brexit as the answer. Quoted Gandhi in relation to judging a government by how it treats its most vulnerable. Strong in many areas, including climate change, the NHS and tackling inequality. Excellent performance and candidate I thought.

4. Carralyn Parkes (Labour) – I thought Carralyn came across as exceptionally ‘down-to-earth’, likeable and caring and someone whose experience and passion were rooted in the plight of ordinary people and the vulnerable. Was strong on highlighting/attacking the government’s record on inequality and health. More than any other candidate, she talked passionately about the Party’s manifesto and policies and how they would transform people’s lives and our society for the better – especially in areas such as the NHS, housing, social mobility and tackling poverty. I’m a Labour supporter (so biased), but I felt Carralyn best represents the policies I support and would make an outstanding MP for South Dorset.

5. Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (Conservative) – What can I say? He began the night (in his first sentence) telling a huge lie (about the national debt) and continued in the same vein. Despite the questions and the other candidates highlighting the appalling record of this Tory government, he was self-congratulatory and took no responsibility for the devastation, mass-poverty and early deaths caused by his government’s policies. And yes…. he said ‘Get Brexit done!’ He also said: “I went to the Jobcentre in Weymouth and didn’t find a single person who was against Universal Credit!” (which was met with howls of derision!) In his answer to the affordable housing shortage, he said: “We need more 1 or 2 bedroom flats above shops!” (As in ‘that’ll do for the peasants!’). The Lord of the Manor of Longburton may well get re-elected…. but it would be a travesty!

As indicated, I actually thought Nick, Jon and Carralyn all performed very well and I would support any of them over Drax. (Hell, I’d support Joseph over Drax!) IMHO, all three are credible candidates. BUT, it would be wrong of me not to address the issue of the anti-Tory vote being split and Drax being re-elected. At the last election in 2017, the result was:

CONservative…. 29,135
Lib Dem…………. 3,053
Green………..….. 2,278

Whilst I encourage everyone to vote with their heart and for the party whose POLICIES they feel most represents them and will benefit their family and country, it is clear that, in South Dorset, there is only one Party who could unseat His Lordship…. and that is Labour. IMHO, a vote for any other Party is likely to mean Drax will win again.

Tom Lane

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