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Candidate defends debate no-show.

Byline: DAVID HUNTLEY david.huntley@trinitymirror.com @davey_huntley

PARLIAMENTARY hopefuls for the Stockton South seat in the General Election were quizzed at a hustings - except one key candidate.

Voters heard from candidates from across the political spectrum about why they believe they're best placed to become the area's next MP.

However Conservative James Wharton, who is fighting to retain the seat for the Tories, was criticised for not appearing at the debate.

Dr Paul Williams from Labour, Drew Durning from Liberal Democrats, Jo Fitzgerald from the Green Party and David Outterside from UKIP took part in the event held at Mint Hobo Coffee House in Yarm.

Mr Wharton is defending a majority of over 5,000 for the Conservatives, but did not respond to correspondence about the event, organisers said.

Speaking to The Gazette, Mr Wharton said he was unable to attend the event due to "other commitments".

He said: "The hustings was organised by Labour supporters and I don't attend hustings events organised by opposition party supporters.

"It was also organised for a night where I have other commitments and was unable to attend and by supporters who are trying to gain cheap political points."

Labour candidate Dr Paul Williams blasted Mr Wharton's no show and said he would debate the Tory MP "anytime, any place."

He said: "I've said it many times before that I will challenge him to a debate anytime any place.

"He has not responded for this event just like Theresa May didn't attend the televised debate either."

Among the issues debated by the candidates were the Brexit negotiations and whether the supposed PS350m gained from leaving would be spent on the NHS.

UKIP candidate, David Otterside, said the NHS would benefit even more by leaving the EU - which he called a "protection racket" but that the "NHS was a priority for spending."

He added: "All of us should be alive to see the end of the EU as an entity."

Another was the issue of free movement within the EU and how it would change post-Brexit.

CAPTION(S):

James Wharton could not attend this week's hustings SIMON GREENER

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jun 3, 2017
Words:355
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