Students seek election pledges

Caption: Lewisham/Deptford candidates with members of the South London Citizens. Photo: Talia Lapidus

Students in Lewisham demanded their parliamentary election candidates make clear pledges when on the hustings in the last week of campaigning before polling day. The lively debate held at Goldsmiths on Friday evening drew sharp exchanges between Liberal Democrat candidate Tamora Langley and the seat’s Labour MP Joan Ruddock who is seeking re-election.  Nationally the main party leaders Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown have been running a much closer race for Thursday’s election than expected.

Every vote cast on 6 May will matter, and candidates from all six parties standing in the Lewisham/Deptford constituency were present to speak directly to potential voters.

Audio report of key general election campaign meeting for Lewisham Deptford constituency held at Goldsmiths College

The event was hosted by Goldsmiths Students Union and attended by the six candidates for Lewisham Deptford: Darren Johnson (Green Party); Tamora Langley (Liberal Democrats); Malcom Martin (Christian Peoples Alliance); Ian Page (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition); Gemma Townsend (Conservative) and current MP Joan Ruddock (Labour). They were asked to commit to pledges put forward by Goldsmiths students and members of the South London Citizens. The pledge topics ranged from urban safety  to the issue of a living wage.

The Sanctuary Pledge was a passionate topic of Christian Peoples Alliance candidate, Malcom Martin. The pledge states that if signed the candidate will help restore sanctuary for asylum seekers and end the detention of children. While signing, Martin stated:

“To think of the way we’re treating asylum seekers, it’s disgusting. Will I sign this pledge? If need be, in blood.”

Half the pledges related to higher education, obviously a major issue amongst students. Lib-Dem candidate Tamora Langley said, in response to opposition to the points-based immigration system:

” [The immigration system] is a mess. You need to be fair to people who want to live here, study here and work here. I agree to sign this pledge to help improve the system.”

Conservative candidate Gemma Townsend did not sign the pledge to oppose the points-based system, but agreed, if elected, to meet with the Home Secretary and the Minister for Higher Education to review the system as a whole. Other pledges included the ‘Safeguard higher education funding’ pledge and the ‘Free education’ pledge.

Goldsmiths Student Union Pledges

After the pledges were made each candidate was given time to address the audience directly.

Reporter Nikki Marra summarizes each candidate’s address.

Malcom Martin (Christian Peoples Alliance)

  • Address the deficit to preserve jobs and education
  • Variation of taxation on bankers
    • Robin Hood Tax
    • Tax on financial transactions
    • IMF tax on profits
  • If bankers don’t pay VAT why should everyday workers have to pay VAT
  • Reintroduce honesty into politics
  • Concept of rights and responsibilities

Gemma Townsend (Conservative)

  • Act on the debt now
  • Allowing small businesses to grow. Cut some of the taxes that affect those people and provide mentors for small business owners
  • Make country more family friendly. Promote marriage in the tax system. Promote long term commitment
  • Increase NHS spending over the first year
  • Improving education – put the power back in the head teacher’s hands
  • Encourage honest people to get involved in politics. More transparency within the political system

Darren Johnson (Green Party)

  • Serious chance for Green Party to have a representative in Westminster
  • Protecting public services. Not treating NHS like a business
  • Climate change – putting forth a programme that will not only address climate change but help create jobs
  • Scrapping the road building budget and invest in transportation
  • Tackle the growing gap between rich and poor

Joan Ruddock (Labour)

  • Whoever is elected is coming into an economic challenge
  • Labour will secure the recovery which has already started that will support the economy
  • Encourage investments; boost jobs
  • Labour is already the world leader in promoting offshore wind technology and the electric car industry in this country
  • Labour will half the deficit over four years at the same time protecting health services, education and policing
  • Has helped the Lewisham area in increasing their education standards
  • Unemployment and violent crime is too high – give training to 18-24’s if they are out of work for 6 months or more
  • Increase policing in the area and targeting of violent crimes

Tamora Langley (Liberal Democrats)

  • Scrap tuition fees – everyone should have the opportunity to realise their full potential
  • Economic status should not determine what you will do in later life
  • Voters have a choice to vote for the old party or for voting for real change
  • Read for yourself the manifesto of the party’s policies
  • “Politicians only go out and listen to people who go out and vote.”

Ian Page (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition)

  • All other parties’ policies are in support of widening the gap of the top 10% of earners and the rest of the workers in this country
  • You need to start to build an alternative to ALL of the other parties
  • Not based on making capitalism work
  • In alliance with People Before Profit
  • The money is there to bridge that gap. Take money from nationalised banks and put back into the economy

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