Posted: Wed 4th Dec 2019

Updated: Wed 26th Feb

Arfon MP hopefuls bid for student vote

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Dec 4th, 2019

Politicians hoping to win Wales’ most marginal seat next Thursday Westminster have been pitching their offer to the crucial student vote.
Candidates bidding to become Arfon’s next MP clashed over issues including Brexit and climate change on Tuesday night – just over a week before polling day.
Held in a lecture room at Bangor University’s Pontio centre, the Plaid Cymru, Labour and Conservative candidates tried to woo the city’s highly coveted student vote.
The Brexit Party candidate, Gary Gribben, had also been invented to attend but, according to organisers, chose not to do so.
One of the main clashes was over leaving the EU, and Boris Johnson’s mantra of “getting Brexit done”.
Despite standing on a platform of backing the Prime Minister’s deal, Conservative Gonul Daniels actually voted to remain in the 2016 referendum.
“This General Election is about Brexit and follows three years of stalemate where the domestic agenda has missed out,” she said, describing herself as a “One Nation Conservative”.
“In 2016 I voted to remain, I believed it was best for us to stay in the EU but I believe in democracy and don’t think we can go against the referendum or hold another one.
“I also believe if you held a referendum again we’d end up with a similar result, and to be democratic we must uphold the result and stop the division.”
However, both the Labour and Plaid Cymru candidates held very different views.
Plaid’s Hywel Williams said: “The Brexit issue has polarised opinion, I see it every day when knocking doors.
“What we had from the Conservative Government were undeliverable promises, such as £350m a week for the NHS.
“We have already thrown away over £4bn on Brexit, there’s been a lack of leadership but I back a confirmatory referendum, in the same way you’d expect a chance to change your mind when making a major purchase.”
Steffie Williams Roberts for Labour, conceded that we lived in a “deeply divided society.”
“Jeremy Corbyn’s neutral position is the best thing you can do in such a situation, that’s how we’re going to heal the country.
“There are young people now who didn’t get a say in 2016 despite being the most affected by the decision to leave, so its only fair that its brought back.”
As may be expected, higher education was high on the agenda, but Brexit continued to overshadow the debate.
Mr Williams believed that “many practical issues” within Welsh universities would be impacted by leaving the EU, not least the loss of existing freedom of movement and would “build barriers.”
Ms Roberts added that many people “don’t understand” how reliant UK universities are on EU funding, concurring that Brexit would have an adverse impact on research.
Ms Daniels was adamant that a Conservative Government would make up the shortfall of any drop in investment, also hailing the Erasmus student exchange programme which she said was not reliant on EU membership.
On climate change, meanwhile, Steffie Williams Roberts spoke of her “pride” in Labour’s policies on climate change,  referencing to the party’s proposed green industrial revolution.
Mr Williams spoke of his “100% green record” as an MP since 2001, also referring to Plaid’s wish to electrify the Welsh rail network and encourage more public transport
But Ms Daniels spoke of the need for a “balanced and realistic approach” and that a 2030 target for net zero emissions would be “too soon” as it would require eliminating petrol cars which would hit the worse off the most.
She was later hackled, however, for suggesting that many people “liked” zero hour contracts due to the flexibility they offered – as opposed to Plaid and Labour’s view that they should be scrapped.
Among other topics of discussion were the NHS – and the need for a medical school in Bangor – public transport, the parties’ respective spending plans and zero hour contracts.
In their respective closing statements, both the Labour and Conservative spoke of the “clear choice” between the two parties, with Hywel Williams noting there is ” no better deal than EU membership”  and the need for Arfon to have an experienced MP.
Polling stations across Arfon will be open on December 12 between 7am and 10pm.

By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter

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