Debates over Brexit and the Conservative’s record in Government provoked tense and angry exchanges at a lively hustings in Croydon Central last night
Despite calls from candidates to moderate the tone of political debate, Mario Creatura, the Conservative candidate, was heckled by an angry audience on several occasions, and Sarah Jones, the incumbent Labour candidate, appeared to mutter that one of her claims was “bollocks”.
The hustings, hosted by former Chief Executive of the Chamber of Commerce Colin Stanbridge, began with a three-minute speech by each of the candidates.
Opening the proceedings, Jones attacked the record of the Conservative government, and said: “People work hard but fail to see any benefit … I’m sick of campaigning to stop things closing.”
Creatura, defending the Government, said: “We all of us care deeply about Croydon. We need to tackle crime, breaking the cycle of deprivation.”
Simon Sprague, the Liberal Democrat candidate, called for kinder politics, while Esther Sutton for the Greens demanded action on the climate emergency. Peter Sonnex for the Brexit Party spoke about his military record, and said that his party was the party of “tolerance and respect”.
The moderator then questioned the parties on specific issues. Jones was interrogated over the vagueness of the Labour policy for Brexit, while Creatura was grilled over wanting to leave the EU despite his parents having come to the UK because of freedom of movement.
The hustings then moved on to audience questions, concerning Brexit, safety, the economy and health.
When a man from the audience interrupted Jones to tell her to “answer the question”, they were shouted down by the audience. When Creatura said that the Conservatives would raise bursaries for nurses, he was met with angry shouts of “you cut them!”
The Conservative candidate for Croydon North, Donald Ekekhomen was also heckled after he posed as a constituent in order to ask a question.
The opposing political allegiances present were never made more clear than when loud applause was given to both Sprague and Sonnex. Loud applause could be heard as the former said that “people were lied to during the referendum” while Sonnex said we need to “get Brexit done.”
However, the loudest support of the evening came when Sarah Jones defended Stormzy after a member of the audience blamed rap music for rising crime levels.
On Westfield, Jones and Creatura blamed each other’s parties for the delays and problems, but Esther Sutton drew applause for saying that Westfield was not “a silver bullet” for Croydon’s economic problems.
Speaking after the hustings, Creatura told Eastlondonlines that he “had a really fun night”, praising the quality of the other candidates and the “passionate” interventions from the audience.
Jones told Eastlondonlines that the hustings was “good and lively”, praising the moderator for his “Jeremy Paxman style questioning.”
Simon Sprague told Eastlondonlines that “it was good to see a wide range of views and fantastic questions.” However, he also criticised the hustings for failing to cover the climate emergency. This was also criticised by Esther Sutton in her closing remarks.
With just over a week to go until the election, the result in Croydon Central is expected to be extremely tight.