I’m at Conway Hall for the London Humanist Hustings. I’m hoping to provide running coverage this evening (and maybe a little fact checking).
- Caroline Allen, Green Party
- Caroline Attfield, Conservative Party
- Tony Brown, UKIP
- Mary Honeyball MEP, Labour Party
- Dr. Louise Irvine, National Health Action Party
- Matt J. McLaren, Liberal Democrats
Matt J. McLaren (Liberal Democrats)
Lapsed member of the British Humanist Association, proud secularist, philosophy graduate from Heythrop. Proud of how Nick Clegg has responded in the “Is Britain a Christian country?” debate. No European supranational institutions should mandate the relation between state and church in member states, but thinks that European institutions should be secular. Concerned about access that groups like the Catholic Church have access to European institutions. Britain is only going to succeed if one allies with one’s European neighbours: “in Europe, in work; out of Europe, out of work”.
Louise Irvine (National Health Action)
GP in Lewisham for 30 years, originally for Scotland. National Health Action Party formed by doctors, nurses, health professionals, patients - people concerned about the NHS. Single issue party—have other policies but focussed on the National Health Service. Hopes that strong vote for NHA will serve as a referendum on the changes to the NHS. 9 hospitals in London at threat of closure or downgrading. Mental health services, GP surgeries at threat of closure. District nurses being reduced, social services budgets being reduced. Leaders of Royal Colleges “predicting imminent meltdown”. The NHS is one of the most civilising institutions of our society. It is a great equalising forces. One of the last forces of social solidarity. NHS is being underfunded to soften up private opinion for privatisation—flotation of charges being suggested by think tanks. Cameron promised no top-down reorganisation and then did the largest NHS reorg—media silent. Huge protests would happen if the public were aware. £5bn of NHS contracts have been put up to tender and 70%+ of those contracts have gone to private contractors. No evidence of improvement under private control. Massive funding gap. “We need to demand our NHS is adequately funding.” Scrap PFI, scrap privatisation.
Mary Honeyball (Labour)
Member of the British Humanist Association. NHS is a great institution that we all want to save and keep. Labour will repeal the Health and Social Care Act. But the European Parliament doesn’t have much to do about the NHS. We need to stay in the EU. Reasons include: air quality, trade—half our exports go to the Single Market—if we were to leave the Single Market, it would have a huge detriment for the country. Equality—women’s rights and LGBT rights. Labour Party in the European Parliament comes out best for fighting LGBT rights. Conservatives aren’t too good, but UKIP are terrible. Peace and Britain’s place in the world: we’ve had peace because of the EU since WWII. Our place in the world is not what it was: we maintain our influence in the world through being in Europe. EU is not perfect: needs reform. Labour has stood up to the EU budget and supported Common Fisheries Policy. Committed to stopping Britain going to Strasbourg. Want to look at reforming the legislative process—too slow. EU is evolving: we have the opportunity to change things and people do listen.
Tony Bronwn (UKIP)
Family of atheists. When mother died, had a rather unsatisfactory religious service. When father died, BHA provided funeral—it was moving because it was personalised and individualised. UKIP is a democratic libertarian party. Treating the individual as an individual. Giving everyone the opportunity to flourish. The European Union is a tremendous impediment: run by a consensus process—largest group is the EPP, Christian Democrats party. Catholic Church has a tremendous role in how the EPP think and vote. Labour co-operate with the EPP. EPP and S&D didn’t disagree. To understand EU parliament, you need to throw out your understanding of Westminster politics. It has evolved from a totally different place. Only way to escape from that system is to vote for the UKIP. The Euro has been a disaster—caused the rise of the Golden Dawn—all the other parties voted for it.
Caroline Attfield (Conservative)
Small government, no nanny state, accountability, equality of opportunity. The European Union is lacking: but am still a committed European. “Ever closer union”: very different from what we signed up for 30 years ago. It’s not a choice between staying in or getting out: there’s a third way. We should stay in for trade reasons: not only to trade with EU countries, but because non-EU countries (US, Asia etc.) invest in Britain to get into European market.
Wants a Europe where we can have trade and some freedom of movement for people—people move both ways. We need to have tough negotiations—the promise of a referendum is a bargaining chip. Only through voting in a team of Conservative MEPs can we see that reform.
Caroline Allen (Green)
Vet, atheist, scientist. People want a positive alternative to the established parties. We do need to be in Europe: but we need to be clear about the type of Europe we want. Rise of nationalism and populism. Need party of democracy and secularism to stand up against nationalism/populism. One issue Greens are working is Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Could lock-in NHS privatisation, threaten environmental protections and protection of workers. All the issues that Greens have worked on are at threat by TTIP.
Equality is vital: a lot of our rights are stronger because of the European Union. Greens have pushed on LGBT rights, equal pay, sexual and reproductive rights—something (Allen) believes in very strongly. Worked on ACTA which threatened Internet freedom. Jean Lambert—Green MEP was protesting outside Guardian office over Snowden.
Greens have bad history on science but this
Allen (Green): completely against fracking. Dangerous, potentially contaminating water supply. Legal case in the US over it. We cannot afford for fossil fuels to come out of the ground because of climate crisis. Only by voting Green will you get action on climate change.
Irvine (NHA): indiscernible
Honeyball (Labour): if we’re going to do it, we need to control it very carefully. Needs to not happen in places where lots of people live.
Brown (UKIP): essential for British jobs and competitiveness
McLaren (LD): not as simple as yes or no. We need to have energy security. We will investigate it and not ban it; where fracking takes places the community needs to benefit.
Allen (Green): energy companies say it won’t change prices. We need to invest in renewables.
UKIP and Same-sex marriage
Bisexual woman quotes from a leaflet that says candidate would oppose same-sex marriage on behalf of “normal people”.
Brown (UKIP): UKIP candidate lists have a variety of candidates.
Moderator indicates that he hasn’t answered the question.
Brown (UKIP): wants equal rights but doesn’t want to use the term marriage because the European Convention on Human Rights would force religions to marry.
McLaren (LD): is openly gay, wants equal rights. Labour and Conservatives voted against requirement for European recognition of marriages, LibDems supported it.
Attfield (Conservative): indiscernible
Honeyball (Labour): Labour have always supported gay marriage.
Questioner: all UK parties voted for clinical trial transparency except UKIP. What do the parties do?
Allen (Green): lobbyists have too much power in the EU/EuroParl. It’s very easy for non-scientists to be misled. Very important to have scientists and scientific people in European Parliament. Greens want to publish all scientific research including negative/null results.
Brown (UKIP): Greens ignore scientific evidence on GMO evidence. UK approach is sensible—stem-cell research. Doesn’t want to transfer regulations of scientific research to EU.
Allen (Green): anti-GM. Main concern is corporate control not “Frankenfoods”. Where is the actual evidence of the benefits? Looked for it and hasn’t seen it.
Honeyball (Labour): UKIP are demonising the Catholic Church to demonise the EU. There is a Catholic presence in the EPP, but it’s not that Christian. There are worries about regulation of stem-cell research by EU.
Irvine (NHA): Supports evidence-based health policy. Supports All Trials campaign. There is evidence of problems with anti-depression medication that was hidden by suppression of evidence.
McLaren (LD): In favour of evidence-based policy making across the board, but Conservatives won’t let them.
Equality at work
UKIP and Conservative candidates: which rights at work do you want to have removed?
Attfield (Conservative): doesn’t want to remove most of them.
Brown (UKIP): if Britain were to leave the EU, all European legislation would remain unless removed.
I didn’t particularly hear the question.
Brown from UKIP talked about climate change, said that climate has always changed.
What should Europe do?
McLaren (LD): Clegg in The Orange Book—LibDems are in favour of doing more where they can. Environmental policy might be a good place. Debate has become too one-sided - only LDs are standing up for Europe.
Honeyball (Labour): Labour Party is in favour of staying in. Constantly told we are going towards “United States of Europe”. EU Competencies Review: it’s sort of okay where it is.
Irvine (NHA): wants to see European regulation of doctors and nurses to guarantee equal standing.
Attfield (Conservatives): European Security Policy.
Allen (Green): Environment - we can’t tackle it on our own. Food policy: needs to be better and different.
Should EU regulate multinational companies like Google and Amazon, and of banks?
McLaren (LibDems): Europe is pretty good at it already: holding Google to account. More effective regulations: LibDems want to see effective regulation.
Attfield (Conservatives): Bank regulation is happening, capital harmonization is happening. Transaction tax is “barmy”. Need to be careful about not overburdening to with regulation.
Irvine (NHA): TTIP would extend multinational corporations to sue national governments if they bring in legislation that threaten profits of those companies.
Honeyball (Labour): TTIP is still being negotiated. Needs to be presure.
Brown (UKIP): TTIP isn’t going to happen any time soon. Smaller countries can make other trade agreements - we would have had a UK-US trade agreement but for being in the EU.
Allen (Green): banking regulation isn’t going fast enough. Main concern is we aren’t getting the legislation we need because of lobbying. Problems with TTIP: going on behind closed doors, large, wealthy legal firms representing large wealthy firms.
What do the parties think about state-funded religious education?
McLaren (LD): Not an area the EU works on, and it shouldn’t be. Fundamentally wrong and one of the worst mistakes the Labour government made and Gove is continuing is giving more power to faith schools.
Brown (UKIP): EU spends thousands on information programmes which are propaganda.
Ukraine and NATO
Questioner: EU’s complicity with US pressure to expand NATO eastwards.
Honeyball (Labour): Various countries want to join NATO. Not quite as simple. Given the instability we are seeing in eastern Europe: not a happy situation. Not something the EU is involved in.
Brown (UKIP): UKIP policy is “speak softly, carry a big stick”. EU has acted to the opposite.
McLaren (LD): Eastern Europe countries are joining Europe to protect against Putin. They want Western protection.
Allen (Green): EU meddling in the Ukraine situation - what underlying factors? Energy security and the failure of the EU to sort out energy security and invest in renewables. Reliant on Russian gas.
Women's rights to choose, abortion
Do you support women’s freedom to choose? Should it be a requirement for joining the EU?
McLaren (LD): Yes, no.
Irvine (NHA): Yes, no.
Honeyball (Labour): Yes, yes.
Brown (UKIP): Yes, yes (“because it’ll keep Turkey out”).
Attfield (Conservatives): Yes, no.
Allen (Green): Yes, yes.
What are your parties commitment to secular democracy?
Allen (Green): Separation of church and state, secularism. No position in government or job should depend on religious membership. Education - no state funding of religious shcools.
Attfield (Conservatives): a lot of people in the Conservative party were surprised by Cameron’s comments. Personal opinion: we are a multi-faith country, the Church of England has become almost irrelevant.
Brown (UKIP): admire separation of church and state. Still have an established church: UKIP are debating whether to disestablish the church, may have a policy before the 2015 GE.
Honeyball (Labour): totally think we should have separation of church and state. European Parliament has a working group on church and state separation. Long way to go in a lot of European countries as well as in the UK. Government should tackle House of Lords reform and bishops privilege.
Irvine (NHA): don’t have a policy on this. Committed to social solidarity. Not enough democracy, too much private lobbying. Opposed to health and social care services being farmed out to religious groups.
McLaren (LD): LibDem policy has been separation of church and state for a long time.
Economic inequality and 'The Spirit Level'
Irvine (NHA): Economic inequality affects health. Anti-austerity. Every £1 invested in health has £4 of benefit of the economy.
Brown (UKIP): doesn’t agree with Spirit Level, cites Laffer.
Honeyball (Labour): don’t want to see a continuation of austerity. EU should appoint a Commissioner for Growth.
Allen (Green): economic inequality is a global problem, anti-austerity. Against zero-hour contract poverty pay jobs. Realign the economy, tackle climate change. Youth unemployment across Europe is a scandal.
Attfield (Conservatives): haven’t read the Spirit Level. Balancing the books is important.
Trust in politicians
Why should we trust you?
McLaren (LibDems): can you trust them and can the do it? Proud of what the LibDems did over tuition fees: made the system the best it could possibly be for students.
Allen (Green): You don’t become a Green if you want to be a professional politician or climb the greasy pole. I believe in what we stand for.
Attfield (Conservatives): Not a professional politicians. First election. Hold politicians to account and vote them out if they don’t live up to their policy.
Brown (UKIP): Our cast-iron guarantee is to get the country out of the European Union as fast as possible.
Irvine (NHA): Not a career politician. Labour promised to not bring in privatisation of NHS. They brought in privatisation of clinical services. Cameron promised no top-down reorganisation, then did the biggest reorganisation. We can’t trust Labour.
Honeyball (Labour): politicians do overpromise. Government is never as easy when you get there as you think it will be when you stand for election. It’s difficult in European Parliament and in national and local government. We need to be more aware and not make specific pledges - we should give an idea of what our values and principles.
Stem-cell and religious lobby
All candidates supported stem-cell research.
Religious lobbies are attacking women’s rights. What are you going to do about it?
Allen (Green): Sexual and reproductive rights.
Attfield (Conservatives): Equal opportunities.
Brown (UKIP): Family planning.
Honeyball (Labour): Sexual health and reproductive rights.
NHA: Agree with Honeyball.
McLaren (LibDem): Pan-European plan to deal with female genital mutilation.
Allen (Green): Positive alternative, party of fundamental rights, opposition to populism and nationalism.
Attfield (Conservatives): for reform of Europe.
Brown (UKIP): EU treaties and EU legislation has been clear—committed to “ever closer Union”. Mary wants it to be the same.
Honeyball (Labour): Labour always standed for equal opportunity, rights at work, hard-working families—we need to fight the far right presence in the European Parliament. Need a progressive party to fight for progressive values: equality, women’s rights, workers rights. Will be part of the largest group - S&D.
Irvine (NHA): Need to get 200,000 votes to get elected. Would fight against TTIP. NHS is fighting for its life: this is a chance to vote for a party who will make it the biggest election issue there is. Tories aren’t talking about it, Labour are strangely silent. Voting NHA puts it on the agenda.
McLaren (LibDem): Stand for liberalism, secularism, democracy. This is a pan-European election. You get things done with like-minded people in Europe. Conservatives aren’t in the biggest conservative group. Labour didn’t deliver on LGBT issues. Liberal Democrats can deliver.