Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Party candidates for North and South Thanet clashed in one of the first hustings of the General Election in Margate last night.
The six candidates were discussing climate change at the Extinction Rebellion-hosted event, which aims to put climate change at the forefront of political debate. However, the two front-runners in the poll, Conservatives Sir Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay, declined to take part.
The candidates addressed local issues, including offshore wind farms, carbon-neutral housing and Manston Airport. The Conservative Party pledge to re-open the airport, which was once the UK’s 6th biggest freight hub.
The Green Party’s Becky Wing instead suggested turning the site into a green development park, suggesting that Thanet could be “at the heart of the new green technology revolution”. Labour also oppose the re-opening of the airport.
The Liberal Democrats were heckled repeatedly during the debate, including for their stance on Manston.
Lib Dem candidate Angie Curwen said: “If we’re going to have airports, we’ve got a runway there, and if we’ve got runways being put down in the country, and we’re building more concrete, then it didn’t make sense to be nimbyist and say ‘not here, make it somewhere else.’”
The parties also debated their nationwide policies, including the date by which Britain should be carbon neutral. Extinction Rebellion want Britain to be carbon-neutral by 2025, which Labour candidate Coral Jones said was “too soon, according to the Institute of Engineers”. Labour promise a carbon-neutral economy by 2035, 15 years earlier than the current target set by the Conservatives.
Labour’s Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt teased other Labour policies, including nationalising transport providers and providing loans to people buying electric vehicles. She also said she hoped a proposed scheme of electric rental cars, similar to London’s Santander Cycles, would come to Thanet if Labour won the election.
The Green Party said they would remove subsidies on fossil fuels.
While Labour candidates said the “Green Industrial Revolution” within their manifesto promised to re-build the economy in a more sustainable way, the Green Party were also keen to talk about their manifesto.
“The climate emergency, is not a bolt-on, it’s not a separate section of the manifesto”, said Becky Wing. “Every single section of our manifesto, the climate emergency … is embedded within that.”
Both Green Party candidates also said that individual action, as well as government policy, would be vital in combatting climate change.
The nation goes to the polls on the 12th December, with the Tories currently ahead in nationwide polls.