TACKLING mental health issues, the problem of tactical voting and even whether cannabis should be legalised were just a few of the issues debated during an election hustings last night.
All five candidates standing for Portsmouth South were grilled by a public audience at St John’s College in Southsea.
The hustings – which was put on by the college’s politics society – saw candidates agree and disagree on a range of topics as the public applauded or even heckled their responses.
Mental health proved to be one of the most stirring topics during the hustings with all candidates highlighting the growing number of young people across Portsmouth who are facing mental health issues.
Flick Drummond, the Conservative candidate for the seat said: ‘The demands on our young people are horrendous. We have people who are not even going outside and not changing their environment and it is all really frightening.’
Mrs Drummond said the government would bring mental health on a parity with physical health in terms of funding.
It was a pledge that was welcomed by the other candidates with Labour candidate Councillor Stephen Morgan labelling the rise in mental health issues across the city ‘as a huge problem’ and calling for ‘something to be done.’
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, the Liberal Democrat candidate pointed to a lack of localised funding to tackle the issue, Ukip candidate Kevan Chippindall-Higgin said the issue had been neglected for ‘too long’ but then said that when it came to tackling online bullying, people could just decide ‘to go offline.’
Green candidate Ian McCulloch said the services need an urgent funding boost.
When it came to the topic of tactical voting, there was a split with the candidates.
While Cllr Vernon-Jackson said it had ‘merit’ and could be used to drive for electoral reform, the other candidates urged the electorate to vote based on their own beliefs.
Mr Chippindall-Higgin emphasised this, stating: ‘You make your own mind up. Tactical voting is pretty insulting to you. It is up to you to decide.’
On the issue of legalising cannabis, the candidates were also split as Cllr Vernon-Jackson was in favour of it and had some support from Mr Chippindall-Higgin – who said it would work for scientific or medicinal purposes.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘There’s a strong argument for it. If it is legalised it will stop people going to drug dealers.’
However, Mrs Drummond, Cllr Morgan and Mr McCulloch sided against it, pointing to it as a gateway drug for harder Class A drugs with Mr Morgan stating police forces would be stretched further should it be decriminalised.