Woking College host the local Parliamentary Candidates in a Hustings

On Thursday 13th June Woking College played host to the Parliamentary candidates standing in the forthcoming General Election. Jonathan Lord, the incumbent Conservative, is defending a 9,767 majority in what has always been regarded as a safe Conservative seat. He was joined at the packed hustings by Will Forster (Liberal Democrat), Nataly Anderson (Green) and Richard Barker (Reform UK). The Labour candidate, Ese Erheriene, was unable to attend and was represented by local councillor Tahir Aziz.

After an introduction by the college principal, Brett Freeman, the floor was thrown over to the students who asked the candidates a number of pertinent questions, ranging from Higher Education tuition and housing shortages to the conflict in Gaza. The candidates’ views sometimes differed, but it was interesting to note that all agreed something needed to be done on the issue of university tuition fees. Only Nataly Anderson stated that university fees should be scrapped outright, while all the others commented on the possibility of removing interest (which currently ranges between 6.25% and 7.9%, depending on the loan type) from loan repayments.

In a straw poll among staff and students who attended, Will Forster proved to be the most popular of the candidates on the day. Although there was praise in general for all the candidates, who largely refrained from attacking each other and instead focused on setting out their own party’s position on the issues. Jonathan Lord was keen to defend the record of the current government, while Tahir Aziz encouraged Labour-leaning voters to not vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats. Richard Barker was keen to stress his outsider status, as someone totally new to politics.

Whatever the candidates’ thoughts, tactical voting will undoubtedly play a role in the outcome of the election, both nationally and in Woking. A number of seats in Surrey are on the Liberal Democrats target list and they have been encouraged by extremely good local election results in recent borough council elections across the county. The last election in 2019 was marked by the fall of a number of ‘red wall’ Labour seats to the Conservatives. Conservatives in ‘blue wall’ Surrey are hoping they won’t suffer the same fate at hands of the Liberal Democrats this time around. 

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