Wind of change? Witney by-election: congratulations to CTE and UNA
As Conservatives canvas vigorously in Witney, hustings were held at the High Street Methodist Church; but only candidates for the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party were invited.
Later, at Charlbury Memorial Hall, Churches Together in Charlbury and the West Oxfordshire branch of the United Nations Association organised a second hustings, inviting all the candidates standing in the by-election on October 20.
They included independents and other parties such as the National Health Action Party, represented by Dr Helen Salisbury (right), an Oxford GP & lecturer at Oxford University medical school, who fears that the current government is in the process of breaking up the NHS, inviting private providers to take over more and more services.
No picture including all candidates was found online; those who attended were independent David Bishop, who campaigns for better rural bus services, Robert Courts for the Conservatives, Duncan Enright for Labour, Liz Leffman for the Liberal Democrats, Larry Sanders for the Green Party (left), independent Daniel Skidmore, and Nicholas Ward, an independent candidate against the HS2 rail link.
16 questions were submitted by members of the 200-strong audience on Brexit but once candidates had explained their positions people asked for new topics to be discussed and the effects of climate change were next on the agenda.
Key topics were:
- cuts to local NHS services,
- housing shortages
- the shrinking reach of rural bus services (one village with 800 homes has no regular public transport)
- grammar schools
- the refugee crisis
- housing levels in West Oxfordshire
- traffic levels on the A40
- climate change
- affordable housing
Wind of change?
Martin Chapman, owner of a local grocery store-cum-restaurant, a long-standing Conservative voter and admirer of David Cameron, may have been speaking for many when he said: “I won’t be supporting the Conservative candidate. We are heading for a hard Brexit and we’ve had announcements like grammar schools with which I am really disappointed. It all seems to be going wrong. I’m backing the Lib Dems because we want politicians to work together for the best solution for the country. The decisions made in the coming months will have such a profound impact for a long time to come.”
Both Labour and Lib-Dem candidates are reported to have made a good impression – the outcome of this by-election may not be a foregone conclusion.