Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Friends of the Earth - debate report

This time I visited the constituency next door in Faversham to take part in a debate on the environment hosted by Friends of the Earth. Faversham is a beautiful old English town with lots of history and has a small town centre with many small shops. It's a nice place to wander about on an afternoon.

I was quite pleased with how the debate went – this was probably my best performance so far – and of course we Liberal Democrats are quite strong on the environment.

We were each given five questions to prepare answers for and then the questions came thick can fast. We discussed what challenges face mankind, climate change, alternative fuels, public transport, renewable energies, local businesses including small shops, sustainability, what councils can do now, and education.

Liberal Democrats control more major cities than any other party and numerous towns as well so there are plenty of examples of initiatives from these councils to help the environment which I could quote. I was able to answer all the questions that came my way, get a few nods from the crowd, and slip in a few party policies.

I had three sparring partners on the panel. Firstly there was a spokesman from the Greens, a nice chap who made some good points. On environmental issues, we often agree with the Greens but we differ on the economic side of things.

Then there was a spokesman from UKIP who dominated the debate. Everyone soon lost patience with his argument that everything was the EU’s fault and that, in the face of crumbling small businesses and failing local transport, the government and councils are helpless,which seemed a cop-out to me. But it was good of him to come along and liven up the evening.

Finally, there was Ashok Rehal, the Faversham candidate from Labour. Another nice chap who performed well in a quiet sort of way.

What’s that I hear you say? No Tories? Well, the Faversham MP Hugh Robertson was invited but declined. That’s fair enough but he didn’t even send a representative like UKIP and the Greens did.

The Conservative blog’s own poll of their own candidates, when asked to list issues in order of importance, put the environment 19th out of 19. So when many members of the likely next government refuse to admit there even is an issue, then we are in trouble indeed. Understandable in difficult times but even the Lab-Con governments won't make a recession last for ever and we are talking about the long term future.

Despite that, I was pleased with how the debate went and am getting to improve these skills. Unfortunately two debates which I agreed to join (hosted by the business park and a church) have had to be cancelled so maybe others don’t find them so enjoyable.

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