Parties reveal stark differences as the nation goes to the polls

WITH voters heading to the ballot box tomorrow [June 8], Tonbridge’s five Parliamentary candidates threw their efforts into the last leg of the General Election campaign.

On Sunday [June 4], around 200 constituents got to quiz Conservative Tom Tugendhat, the Green Party’s April Clark, Dylan Jones of Labour, Liberal Democrat Keith Miller and UKIP’s Colin Bullen at Tonbridge Baptist Church in Darenth Avenue.

From the housing crisis and elderly care to Brexit payments and waste in the NHS, the disparate answers from the panel meant no one could make the common complaint that ‘they are all the same’.

Incumbent Tom Tugendhat was forced to defend the less popular aspects of the Conservative manifesto as his party was attacked by all the other candidates on plans to scrap free school lunches as well as previous cuts to child tax credit. Mr Tugendhat also argued that the proposed reform to funding adult social care was just.

“[The current system] effectively uses the poorest to subsidise the inheritance of others…The reality is that it is fair to pay for your own care.”

The Green Party’s April Clark drew the most positive reaction from the audience, receiving applause on three separate occasions, including for her arguments for improvements to social housing provision, although she was jeered after calling for a second EU referendum on the final Brexit deal. 

There was broad agreement that elderly care needed reform, with Labour’s Dylan Jones talking of the ‘obscene’ costs of private care homes and pledging to retain the winter fuel allowance and triple lock on pensions.

A question on the impact of austerity on the poor quickly turned into a debate on taxation, with Liberal Democrat Keith Miller criticising Labour’s tax and spend policies.

“There is a problem with taxing the rich to such an extent that they will pay accountants to do tax dodging,” he said, adding that if corporation tax was raised many large companies would jump ship and the UK would lose tax revenue.

But on Brexit UKIP’s Colin Bullen, called the vote ‘a liberation from an anti-democratic institution’ and affirmed his party’s role was to make sure the result was ‘honoured’.

Prior to the debate a minute’s silence was held for the victims of the London Bridge terrorist attack.