Last week’s terrorist attack on London Bridge, Donald Trump’s comments on women, and freeing Kingston from the tyranny of ‘tree worshippers’ were all on the agenda at this week’s hustings for Kingston and Surbiton.

While Ed Davey could not attend, as he was on his way to Hull for BBC’s Question Time, Liberal Democrat for neighbouring Richmond Park, Sarah Olney stepped in.

Scott Holman for the Brexit Party and Chinners Chinnery for the Monster Raving Loony Party did not attend, but six other candidates faced questions from the audience at All Saints Church on everything from Brexit to the local high street.

While most of their answers were pretty bland and toed the party line, Roger Glencross provoked several choruses of boos and jeers with his bizarre climate change denials and crusade against political correctness.

Surrey Comet:

Here are the key things the candidates had to say.

Sum it up in a sentence

With only an hour to squeeze everyone in, candidates were asked to summarise why residents should vote for them, because not every candidate was given a chance to answer each question.

Leanne Werner said the Labour Party were the only ones who could address the housing crisis, while Sharron Sumner claimed the Greens are the only party who will “address the climate crisis head on”.

Sarah Olney, representing Ed Davey for the Liberal Democrats, said her party would have the “most fiscally responsible manifesto” while still delivering to help the poorest in society.

Roger Glencross from the UK Independence Party said he “will address a huge gap in the political market”, with his stance on “freedom of speech, confronting political correctness and questioning the green agenda”.

James Giles, Independent, said he “will serve residents” and doesn’t have a party to pull his strings, while Aphra Brandreth from the Conservative Party said “only the Conservatives can stop a Corbyn government.”

Surrey Comet:

Prison reform

The first question from the audience focused on last week’s terror attack on London Bridge and asked the candidates if they agreed with Boris Johnson’s comments about increasing sentencing and stopping parole for terrorist offences.

Up first was Ms Brandreth who said last week’s incident was “absolutely horrendous”, and that we need to remember “that two young lives in Saskia and Jack were cut short, and we need to take time to reflect on that.”

However, she went on to agree with her party leader, saying “clearly in this latest incident, something went fatally wrong in our system. To allow a known terrorist to be in a situation where he was let free and was able to carry on with these atrocious attacks is clearly not acceptable and something needs to happen to reflect on that”.

She added: “Unfortunately I think that some of these people are so brainwashed they will never be reformed.”

However, the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates took a very different view and blamed government cuts.

Surrey Comet:

Ms Werner said: “We need to reinvest in our public services to keep all our citizens safe,” while Ms Olney said she was more interested in stopping crime in the first place.

She said the Liberal Democrats will make prisons “real places of rehabilitation” to de radicalise people, adding that length of sentence is not a relevant factor.


No election debate would be complete without it, and this time Donald Trump also got a look in.

Ms Sumner said the Greens would hold a second referendum and campaigned to remain in the EU.

When asked about trade deals with the United States, she said she feared an ever-growing relationship with President Donald Trump and criticised some of his comments as ‘misogynistic’.

“It feels me with dread, as a woman, that we would be contemplating signing off a trade deal with Donald Trump, who, let’s face it, makes misogynistic comments all the time, his actions are vile.

Surrey Comet:

“I would much prefer to be close to Europe. As a woman I wouldn’t feel safe with him,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, Roger Glencross from UKIP said the idea of another referendum was “absolute madness”  and we should accept the result.

He criticised a question from the audience as being “from a remainer” and rubbished claims about the difficulties of trade talks, saying if “little Iceland” was able to negotiate with China “we can do the same”.

“When we’re on our own, when we’re an independent state, negotiating in our own interests will be simpler and therefore quicker.”

This did not go down particularly well with the audience, the majority who voted remain, who began to laugh and boo at his comments.

Ms Werner worried that the NHS will be sold off as part of trade talks, but

Ms Brandreth rubbished these fears and called for a type of politics that puts more energy into “positive relationships.”

Surrey Comet:

Climate Emergency

One of the key issues at this year’s election has been the climate emergency, but not all of the candidates were convinced climate change is real.

Ms Sumner highlighted scale of the issue by highlighting how blossom was still on the trees in Surbiton, and said the Green party would stop burning fossil fuels by 2030, end nuclear power and retrofit homes to make them more energy efficient in a bid to tackle the crisis.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum Mr Glencross spoke about “doomy prophecies” and said climate change predictions were “all baloney” to boos from the audience.

He added he would question “tree worshippers who want to spend millions of pounds of your money planting millions of trees in this country in a desperate attempt to catch a tiny amount of CO2 which is a worthless exercise in itself.”

School cuts

We’re all aware of the extent of school cuts, but Mr Giles revealed a local headteacher had told him she was having to clean toilets herself because she cannot afford cleaners.

Ms Werner criticised austerity measures under the Conservatives, and Ms Sumner said there are not enough school places in the borough.

She said this forces some children in Surbiton to travel to Chessington “virtually in another borough” just to get to school. 

Surrey Comet:

Ms Brandreth conceded that schools have been through a tough time but insisted the Tories will invest more now the economy is back on track, and that Labour would bring down standards by abolishing Ofsted and grammar schools.

Social care

With the social care Green Paper being delayed several times, it’s no wonder that the public are sceptical of what the different parties can offer on this important issue.

Mr Giles gave an impassioned speech about people receiving at-home care in Kingston, who have to sacrifice up to 100 per cent of their disposable income on their care.

“Not enough for a coffee, going out for a meal, swimming. I think that’s a disgrace” he said.

Ms Brandreth said the Conservatives are adding an extra billion a year to tackle the issue, but also called for cross-party consensus, while Mr Glencross said he would like to scrap the bedroom tax “which adversely affects many disabled people.”

High street

A key issue for Kingston residents was the state of the high street, which has seen several large stores close in recent months.

Ms Sumner said the Greens would empower local councils with ‘head leases’ to allow them to take over leases and rent parts of it to smaller businesses on a more flexible basis.

Mr Giles appeared to like this idea and spoke of the benefits of community initiative such as the New Malden farmers’ market in helping to increase footfall for local busisiness.

The Liberal Democrats said they would scrap business rates and replace them with a tax that the landlord pays, while Mr Glencross said UKIP would scrap workplace pensions for businesses with under 10 employees to make it easier to get independent shops off the ground

Ms Werner focused on the need to stop tax breaks for big corporations, and ended up at loggerheads with Ms Brandreth who said the biggest threat to business is a “Corbyn government.”

So what’s likely to happen?

Kingston and Surbiton is considered to be a fairly safe seat for the Liberal Democrats, as the home of the Deputy Leader Ed Davey, so it is likely he will win next week.

With Brexit the key issue on the agenda, and Kingston overwhelmingly voting to remain in the EU referendum, it seems unlikely that this seat will change hands.