Crowds of voters turned out to watch a live Question Time-style hustings event featuring five MEP candidates in Hemel Hempstead last night.
The event, organised by Churches Together in Hemel Hempstead, was held in Haven House on London Road and had invited people to submit questions to the current and wannabe European politicians for the eastern region in advance.
Exisiting members of the European Parliament Andrew Duff of the Liberal Democrat party and UKIP’s Stuart Agnew sat on the panel alongside prospective members Conservative John Flack, Chris Ostrowski of Labour and the Green Party’s Jill Mills.
Each candidate was invited to make an opening speech to the audience on why their party should win votes in the European elections on Thursday, May 22 – the same day as local elections – before each answering the questions submitted.
The total of seven MEPs required for the eastern region, which spans six counties including Herts, are selected using the d’Hondt method of party list representation. Candidates are not voted for individually in the European elections, rather, voters select the party they would prefer to be represented by.
The region is currently represented by three Conservatives, two UKIP members, one Liberal Democrat and one Labour member.
Featured among the questions from the public were concerns about the EU’s power to influence UK reactions to world affairs, including the Syria and Ukraine crises, whether voters can trust party manifestos and views on global trade partnerships.
A final question read out by event organiser David Chapman asked the panel what one thing they would each change about the EU.
While there was consenus among many candidates about wanting to remove the need for the EU to move between its two homes on the continent, initially brought up by Green’s Ms Mills, Mr Ostrowski of Labour said he would like to see the EU commissioner elected by the European Parliament as opposed to appointed by government.
Liberal Democrat Mr Duff explained he would like to see stronger social policy to support migrant workers and the communities that receive them, while Tory Mr Flack said he would abolish the party list system. UKIP’s Mr Agnew said it was not a question of changing one thing, but wanting to be either in the EU and committed to it, or, as his party would choose, be out of it.
Speaking after the event, Churches Together secretary David Chapman, who organised and chaired the event, said: “It was a useful evening, and it has been good to see people from across the spectrum of political support.
“Some difficult questions were addressed honestly by the speakers, and debate was good-humoured and well-natured.
“Hopefully people will be more informed about what they are actually voting for, and having an evening like this certainly brings the issues closer to home for many people.”