A LIVELY and passionate debate was had by the prospective parliamentary candidates for Basingstoke and Deane in the first election hustings held in the town, organised by the Gazette.

Conservative Maria Miller, the Green party’s Jonathan Jenkin, Labour’s Kerena Marchant, Liberal Democrat Sashi Mylvaganam and independent Alan Stone faced an audience of 160 at The Apollo Hotel, in a debate chaired by the Gazette’s Bill Browne.

Questions put to the candidates by members of the audience and those following the debate live on Facebook included national issues regarding the climate crisis, the NHS and Brexit, along with local problems such as Basingstoke hospital, the Top of Town, the town’s ice rink and County Lines.

They also had some more light-hearted questions put to them, such as rating the leader of their party out of 10.

Welcoming everyone, Mr Browne, publisher of the Gazette, said: “We are delighted that all the candidates have turned up for this event.”

He then invited the candidates to answer some pre-prepared warm-up questions, the first being about the climate crisis and whether the government’s target to be climate neutral by 2050 is enough.

Mr Jenkin was first to answer, saying: “The Green party is campaigning for 2030 because by 2050 it’s going to be too late.”

Mr Mylvaganam accused the current government of scrapping ‘green’ incentives such as for electric cars, adding: “It really has become a poor show on behalf of the current government. It’s a sad state of affairs.”

Mrs Miller said the problem needed to be tackled by all nations, explaining: “I don’t think there’s enough that any one government can do. If we are going to really tackle this, as we have heard on the news today the greenhouse gas is continuing to rise, it’s something we have to tackle as a globe.”

There was laughing from the audience when she said the current government had “done its bit and has taken a leadership role on climate change”, before pointing out some of its successes such as increasing offshore wind by 500 per cent.

Mr Stone said he has seen first-hand the damage caused to coral reefs while diving, adding: “Every one of us would have to change our lifestyles.”

Mrs Marchant gave a passionate speech, and was rewarded with a loud applause after talking about Labour’s “green industrial revolution”, and referring to the current situation as a “disaster movie”, adding: “It’s up to us to save the planet for our children and their children.”