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Bins or Brexit? Voters urged to ‘send a message’ at elections

Candidates clash at Camden's biggest hustings over whether Europe should be an issue at a local level

12 April, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Adrian Bridge speaking at the hustings

LIBERAL Democrats said voters users should use next month’s council elections to send a message over their Brexit pain, as candidates came face to face at the largest hustings to be held so far in the run up to polling day for council elections.

More than 100 people watched the debate unfold at the Hampstead Synagogue in Dennington Park Road, West Hampstead on Tuesday night as the political parties argued over whether Europe should be in the minds of residents as they choose who runs the Town Hall.

The Lib Dems, the largest party in Camden 10 years ago but now down to just two councillors, believe the party’s pro-Europe stance can attract voters from both Labour and the Conservatives. Adrian Bridge, who is standing as a candidate in Fortune Green told the audience his German wife feared she would be told to leave in the wake of the Brexit referendum in 2016.

“I joined politically pretty much at the moment I saw the result of this Brexit thing,” he said. “In this election, of course it’s about local issues but there is always a national element and yes, we can send a message to the Prime Minister but it’s actually a message to the scores of EU residents and nationals living in this area. We want to send them a message saying: Actually you are welcome.”

The hustings, organised by the West Hampstead Amenity and Transport Group and the West Hampstead Neighbourhood Development Forum, saw 21 candidates across four parties face questions on waste recycling, pollution, crime and education. The Conservatives say, for these elections, residents must focus on these issues and decide who would be best to take local decisions after May 3.

Conservative candidates running in Fortune Green and West Hampstead

Shamim Ahmed, a Tory standing in West Hampstead, said: “We all know that it wasn’t my party who decided to leave the EU, you, the people voted, and we decided altogether. It wasn’t our party or one particularly individual.”

Fellow Conservative candidate Phillip Taylor added: “You can send a message to Theresa May, Donald Trump or frankly the man on the moon, but you are going to live with the consequences of that for four years, and that’s a very long time and the bins will be a reminder.” He said a left-wing Labour group in Camden would “run amok” with local service.

Labour’s Sorin Floti

Labour candidates were urged to distance themselves from the party’s national policy, which is not calling for a second referendum. Sorin Floti, who is aiming to become the first Romanian Labour councillor in the country, said: “All of six of us [candidates], we are proud remainers. We are not national politicians, unfortunately. I wish I was a national politician.”

He added that local Labour councillors and activists had organised legal advice sessions for EU nationals and Camden had worked with residents, businesses and charities to face potential problems.

“I have never argued for Brexit,” added Mr Floti.

David Stansell for the Greens

Representing the Greens, David Stansell said: “It’s shameful really, people were made so many promises including those who voted to leave. All I can say, if you vote for Green you are voting for another party which is completely pro-Remain, as in completely for having another referendum.”

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