IMPASSIONED parliamentary candidates for Portsmouth South were united last night in their vows to fight for the city's best interests during a packed hustings event where Brexit was not the dominating topic.
Education, the Royal Navy, crime, QA Hospital and air quality were all hotly debated by MP hopefuls looking to secure the votes of audience members on December 12.
Conservative candidate Donna Jones, Labour's Stephen Morgan, John Kennedy from the Brexit Party and Lib Dem Gerald Vernon-Jackson attended the event at the University of Portsmouth's Eldon Building, which was chaired by The News' editor Mark Waldron.
Each candidate was given a set time to present their case before answering questions from the audience in a panel style.
They sympathised with teacher Charlotte Lawrence. She said: 'My own school in Southsea is currently facing a £130,000 shortfall in 2020.
'What will you do to ensure our schools are properly funded?'
In response Mrs Jones confirmed her party would be securing £14bn nationally for schools. She said: 'A good education for our children is what they all deserve.'
Mr Vernon-Jackson condemned previous cuts to schools. 'If these cuts continue the bits that make education such fun, creative and wonderful days in people's lives are the things that are going to get cut,' he said.
He cited a pledge for £10bn additional funding and 20,000 new teachers nationally from the Lib Dems.
Mr Morgan, who will be fighting for re-selection, described the current state on funding in schools as 'shameful.'
He said: 'I believe every child deserves the best possible chance in life and the best way to do that is by going to a good local school.
'Portsmouth is set to lose £3.4m in the next few years affecting 51 schools.
'I am the only candidate who has signed the stop the school cuts pledge.'
Brexit Party candidate Mr Kennedy added: 'There's nothing like an election to conjure up a magic money tree and in this one we've stumbled into a forest.
'But it is self evident that if you don't fund education you end up with the results the pupils don't deserve.'
Candidates were equally as protective over the role of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.
Audience member Thomas Fyfe asked about navy funding and ensuring Portsmouth continues to play a major role.
Mr Vernon-Jackson said: 'It seems to me without the navy this city loses its heart.' He pledged to tackle issues with housing for servicemen and women that he described as 'really rubbish.'
Mr Kennedy agreed. He said: 'It's going to be one important issue for our MP to fly the flag for.'
Labour Mr Morgan said he was inspired to become a politician because his veteran grandfather and pledged to continue to support all troops. 'It is shameful that veterans take their own lives because of the lack of support in terms of mental health,' he said.
Mrs Jones said: 'If I am elected I am going to make sure the new Type 31 frigates are based in Portsmouth, I won't be supporting them going to Plymouth.'
The hustings event was broadcast live to The News' website.
Candidate Steven George of the Justice and Anti-Corruption Party also attended to make a statement at the beginning of the event but did not stay for questions.