JEREMY Hunt affirmed his desire to continue as Health Secretary “if Theresa May asks me to” at the first pre-election hustings for South West Surrey at Haslemere Hall today.
Mr Hunt , who has held the seat for the Tories since 2005, went head to head against rival contenders David Black (Labour), Dr Louise Irvine (NHA), Ollie Purkiss (Lib Dems) and Mark Webber (UKIP).
Dr Louise Irvine, a Lewisham GP, said she stood against Mr Hunt in 2015 because she believed he had failed the NHS and was challenging him again “because it had got worse”.
When each candidate was asked what office of state they would most like to hold if elected, Mr Hunt said: “What I am going to say will be a very grave disappointment to friends of the NHA in the front row here, but I would like to continue if Theresa May asks me.”
Equally keen to be Health Secretary, Dr Irvine pledged to remove the cap on pay and restore the nurse bursaries when in post, to restore NHS staff morale.
A strong turnout by vocal NHA supporters made for a boisterous first hustings and the emphasis on the state of the NHS meant Mr Hunt and Dr Irvine clashed repeatedly.
Mr Black, a former Godalming resident, spoke up strongly for Labour policies, despite being in a Tory heartland “in deepest darkest Surrey and the bowels of Haslemere”.
Mr Webber, who also stood in 2015, urged everyone to vote for UKIP to avoid a “soft Brexit” that “would keep us locked in”, while Mr Purkiss, a Godalming resident “immersed in the community and local issues” called for everyone to vote for the Lib Dems as “the clear alternative to a damaging Brexit”.
For full report read next Thursday’s Herald...
*Farnham Maltings will host a follow-up hustings debate for the South West Surrey constituency on Friday, June 2 with all parliamentary candidates invited to attend ahead of the upcoming general election.
The hustings will give voters an opportunity to hear what each of the candidates are offering to best meet the needs of the constituency and hear more about the policies of each political party represented.
This event is free to attend but tickets will be required. For more information, including how to ask a question, visit farnhammaltings.com or call the box office on 01252 745444.