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Mark Field rejects church hustings to avoid ‘foul-mouthed abuse’ he got last time

Candidates for Cities of London and Westminster were quizzed about foodbanks, pensions and the NHS on Tuesday

02 June, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

From left, candidates Benjamin Weenen (YPP), Bridget Fox (Lib Dem), Ibrahim Dogus (Labour) and Tim Lord (Independent)

MARK Field did not attend a church-organised hustings this week, arguing he was not prepared to suffer the “foul-mouthed abuse” he got last time around.

The Cities of London and Westminster Conservative candidate, who has held the constituency since 2001, said the organisers of the event in St Mary-Le-Bow Church, Cheapside, had not been able to control the audience at a similar event before the 2015 general election.

Mr Field told Westminster Extra: “The 2015 hustings at St Mary-Le-Bow degenerated into foul-mouthed abuse and my wife and the then Labour candidate were insulted in the most deplorable terms.

“I resolved then that the failure of the organisers to control the event made it highly unlikely that I would attend in future.

“As it happened, the date offered was inconvenient given my other commitments during this busy period which my agent made clear some time ago in writing. Frankly, I did not wish to subject my family or team to such a tirade once again, something I am sure would in the circumstances be widely understood.”

He added that he was also double-booked on the day of the hustings with a “prior commitment”.

The Reverend George Bush from St Mary-Le-Bow said the last hustings at the church two years ago was “very stormy”.

“One candidate had brought supporters that were very rude about Mark,” he told Westminster Extra. “I wasn’t happy about that at all. Nevertheless, it is a parliamentary hustings, the only one for the seat, and you have to take the rough with the smooth.”

The Rev Bush added that they knew that Mr Field was unavailable on that date but not aware that he had concerns about the organisation of the hustings. “If he had called and told us that we would have given him assurances,” he added.

One member of the audience, Jan Gard, said of Mark Field not attending: “It’s utterly disgraceful towards everyone in Westminster. It’s almost like he doesn’t really care.”

The event on Tuesday featured candidates Ibrahim Dogus (Labour), Bridget Fox (Liberal Democrats), Tim Lord (Independent) and Benjamin Weenen (Young People’s Party).

At the hustings each candidate gave a speech as to why people should vote for them and were quizzed on issues including pensions, social care, food-banks, education, housing and the EU.

During the debate, Mr Lord, a lawyer from Soho, said he had “no intention of being a career politician”, adding: “I can ensure that we have proper transparency… and that the government are held to account.”

Responding to a question about the future of food banks, he said: “A situation where our nurses have to use foodbanks is unacceptable. We have people in power like Jeremy Hunt who clearly have powers over what happens to the NHS, but no responsibility.”

On the same topic, Mr Dogus said raising the minimum wage was part of the solution, adding: “This is one of the richest countries in the world and we have people using food banks. And yet we have a prime minister who says there are complicated reasons why people use food banks.”

Ms Fox said on the topic of Brexit: “We have got to get this right, as at the moment we are in danger of getting it really wrong.” Responding to a question about education, Ms Fox pledged to “protect free school lunches”.

As for housing, she said the Lib Dems would raise council tax for empty properties. Other no-shows at the hustings were Anil Bhatti, Ukip, Ankit Love, Independent, and Lawrence McNally of the Green Party.

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