The five takeaways from the Northampton North general election hustings

The candidates hoping to stand as the next MP for Northampton North. (left to right- Anthony Antoniou (Reform UK), Dan Bennett (Conservatives), Christopher Leggett (Lib Dems), Lucy Rigby (Labour))
-Credit: (Image: Nadia Lincoln LDRS)

In under a week, people across the country will go to the polls to decide who they want to be their next MP to represent their area in Whitehall.

Four out of the seven hopefuls vying to be the next member of parliament for Northampton North faced quickfire questions from their could-be constituents over the course of an hour on Thursday, June 27.

In attendance were Anthony Antoniou (Reform UK), Dan Bennett ( Conservative Party ), Christopher Leggett ( Lib Dems ) and Lucy Rigby (Labour). The hustings was hosted by NLive Radio at the Mercure Hotel in Northampton.

The other three candidates were given the opportunity to take part in pre-recorded interviews which were broadcast on the station immediately after the live event.

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You can listen to it back on the NLive website here.

Here are the main takeaways from the event:

1. What would you do to restore faith in politics?

Reform candidate Anthony Antoniou said that restoring faith was all about democracy. He said that the current political system is "disconnected" and that more involvement with members of the public is needed.

Dan Bennett said he would try to reflect the attitude of previous Conservative MP Michael Ellis after working in his office for five years. He said it is very difficult to regain trust just with words and would put all of his pledges on a tracker to hold himself accountable for delivering on them.

Labour's Lucy Rigby said that a sense of political apathy was apparent when speaking to people at their doors, which she attributed to "14 years of broken promises". She said the Labour manifesto was based on 'credible' and 'achievable' pledges.

Standing for the Liberal Democrats, Christopher Leggett agreed that the government and politicians should be held to account. He said he would commit to admitting and owning his mistakes if elected and be honest with constituents.

2. What would you pledge on state pensions to ensure they match a living wage?

Lucy Rigby said that Labour has committed to keep the triple lock, but that, on top of that, a Labour government would get a grip on the cost of living crisis.

Christopher Leggett said that the way the tax system had been 'undermined' was appalling and that pensioners "should expect to be looked after by the state for all the work they’ve done". He said that the freezing of personal allowances should be reinstated in line with inflation.

Dan Bennett said that "as Conservatives, we always want to support pensioners" and that there is always more to do. He said there are fewer pensioners living in poverty since his party took office in 2010 and they would be introducing a triple lock plus for retirees.

Anthony Antoniou said the first step would be to immediately raise the tax threshold for pensioners to £20,000. He added that it is "outrageous" that people are paying income tax on their pensions.

3. What would you do to improve the wait times at hospitals?

Dan Bennett said that the UK's "exploding population" was partly to blame for the suffering national health service and that the extra money going into it 'is not enough'. He said that immigration is putting pressure on its capabilities and also said that the number of doctors and nurses needs to be increased.

Lucy Rigby recognised that there is a "crisis" in the NHS and that bringing it back to health would be a 'central part' of Labour's manifesto. She said a Labour government would bring waiting lists down by creating 40,000 more appointments every week paid for by cracking down on tax avoidance.

Anthony Antoniou added that spending on the NHS is not the only problem. He said that working conditions need to be improved and staff need to be ‘tempted’ back into the NHS with Reform UK offering three years tax free income.

Christopher Leggett said that social care and mental health care had "been left to go to dust". He said the way to change the NHS is to change the way the country does health and make sure to move people through the system.

The panel were quizzed by members of the audience through the chair, former political journalist and University of Northampton lecturer, Kate Ironside.
The panel were quizzed by members of the audience through the chair, former political journalist and University of Northampton lecturer, Kate Ironside. -Credit:Nadia Lincoln LDRS

4. What steps would you take to make a difference to the town centre?

Christopher Leggett said that the Lib Dems would make sure power is devolved to local authorities to manage their own high streets. He said high streets need to be made modern and accessible. He said his party would abolish business rates and that landowners should be paying for them.

Lucy Rigby agreed that business rates should be reformed. She also added that retail crime needs to be tackled and that small businesses need to be supported more generally.

Anthony Antoniou said that town centres began dying when larger stores started to "throttle" the smaller businesses. He said business rates for all but the largest businesses need to be abolished. He also agreed that petty crime must end and police need to be seen on the streets.

Dan Bennett said he had been going into Northampton town centre since he was an infant and has seen the decline in offerings. He said that there is a lot of investment coming from the council into the town centre so there are changes going on that he is "excited" to see. He also added he would campaign to get a reduction in business rates.

5. What needs to be done to secure the future of universities and students across the UK?

Anthony Antoniou said care needs to be paid to make sure overseas students "do not become a casualty of our efforts to stop excessive immigration". He said there needs to be clear rules on recruitment of students.

Dan Bennett took issue with a number of degrees which he said "do not improve their chances of employment" later on. He added those courses needed to be looked at.

Christopher Leggett said that the Liberal Democrats are completely committed to ensuring education is as strong as it can be. He said there was a time when the party thought free tuition fees were the way forward and it needs to be revisited.

Lucy Rigby said, if elected, she would champion the role of the university in Northampton. She said the question of finances needs ‘sorting out’ on a sustainable basis.

All parties said they would not like to see the current cost of fees go up any further.

Also standing in the constituency are Eishar Kaur Bassan (Green Party), Paul Leslie Clark (Independent) and Khalid Razzaq (Workers Party).

NLive Radio will also broadcast another hustings for Northampton South today (June 28) from 6pm.