CANDIDATES were jeered and applauded in near-equal measure by their flocks of party faithful crammed into a church hall at a fiery election hustings.
Challengers to Caroline Dinenage in the Gosport safe Tory seat one by one rounded on the Conservative government as they set out their stall on education, the NHS and defence issues.
Shouts of ‘lies’ and ‘truth’ bounded across the room among the 200-strong audience during opening speeches and throughout.
That prompted Rev Dr Paul Chamberlain, chairman and vicar of St Faith’s Church in Lee-on-the-Solent to twice remind the ‘lively audience’ at the church’s parish centre to let candidates speak.
Candidates challenging Ms Dinenage were Tom Chatwin for Labour, Zoe Aspinall for the Green Party and Martin Pepper for the Liberal Democrats.
Answering a question about restoring trust in British politics, Mr Pepper said MPs who lied should be ‘banned from parliament for the rest of that term’.
The Gosport borough councillor was met with a quip from an audience member who said: ‘You’d be banned from the council chamber.’
Ms Dinenage’s response to the question was drowned out with shouts of ‘shame on you’ while her supporters shot back with shouts of ‘quiet’.
But she won applause for answering a question on social care by warning it cannot be used as a ‘political football’. She confessed her party had been guilty of doing so by calling approaches the ‘death tax’ and ‘dementia tax’.
She warned indecision could not continue. ‘All that does is create disarray... it kicks the can down the road,’ she said.
Both Lib Dem and Labour candidates criticised Ms Dinenage, a social care minister, for not publishing a green paper on the subject. Mr Chatwin said: ‘We need to spread the wealth to the people who need it.’
Ms Aspinall said people who paid into the system had been left behind. ‘This is not how we should look after people who have spent their entire lives working for us,’ she said.
On education Ms Aspinall, who works in a school, said budget cuts were so bad she had been told she could not buy treasury tags for her class.
But it was Northern Ireland veteran Mr Pepper's recounting of how he had bricks and bottles thrown at him and was shot at on patrol that earned the only hushed silence of the night.
Answering a question on Brexit he restated his party's revoke position and said: 'Anyone who does anything to threaten the Good Friday Agreement will not be a friend of mine.'
Ms Dinenage said her party would respect the democratic outcome of the referendum while the Labour and Green candidates backed a second vote.
On a question about women's pension age and the plight of the Waspi women Ms Dinenage said a Labour pledge of £58bn was unaffordable. Mr Chatwin said: ‘They don't want your sympathy they want their money.’