A PACKED audience saw the six candidates for the South Herefordshire constituency battle it out at a Ross-on-Wye hustings as they put across their points of views.

The event was already to go at St Mary’s Church with five seats laid out for the candidates who had confirmed their attendance, when the sixth candidate, Mark Weadon, (Independent) announced his presence.

Consulting with the audience, chairman Adrian Kendry, asked whether Mr Weadon should stay and take part or just observe? The audience voted that he should take part and organisers hastily rearranged the seating and microphones so that all six candidates could be part of proceedings.

The general election candidates, Nigel Ely (Reform UK); Joe Emmett (Labour); Jesse Norman (Conservative); Dan Powell (Liberal Democrats); Diana Toynbee (Green) and Mark Weadon (Independent) tackled questions from the audience ranging from flooding in Ross, the River Wye, to the NHS, housing, the ongoing effects of Brexit and the war in Ukraine and the Israel and Palestine conflict.

Nigel Ely (Reform UK) said: “The two-party system in this country has failed. The out of touch political class have turned their backs on us. I have had a career in the military and have been bombed, shot, bitten and blown up and even napalmed. I’ve been around. My lived experience makes me the person I am and not a regular politician. And now I find myself still fighting. We are a nation in decline, but Reform UK can stop the decay.”

Joe Emmett (Labour) said: “I have been in Ross several times over recent weeks canvassing, examining the issues over the recent flooding and attending the D-Day tribute.  My overriding conclusion is that Ross is overlooked in comparison to Hereford. It looks like this is a Joe verses Jesse contest and I hope that I can persuade people that I have the vision and passion to serve this constituency.”

Jesse Norman (Conservative) said: “I have been the Member of Parliament for this constituency for the past 14 years and it has been my honour and privilege to try to take the lead on a number of projects, locally and across the county, including the dreaded flooding that affected Ross so badly.”

Dan Powell (Liberal Democrats) said: “This contest is not Joe verses Jesse, but rather its LibDems verses Conservatives as in Ross there already three county councillors who are Liberal Democrats. The majority of Ross Town Council is also LibDem. For all the words of tactical voting it is unlikely Labour will win. We are local and we the LibDems are on the ground 24/7.”

Diana Toynbee (Green) said: “This hustings event is democracy in action. I am standing for election because Herefordshire is a very special place to be. My resources may not be as substantial as the major parties, but nonetheless I am equally determined. Just as we need biodiversity in nature, we also need it in parliament.”

Mark Weadon (Independent) said: “I am here because I am the wild card. I don’t have the waffle of the other candidates, but I believe in democracy. We are not helping ourselves. We have not taken ownership of particular issues in the past and are leaving it to Generation Z to deal with. It’s us the baby boomers and those who are younger, who’ve got to start sorting these issues out.”