PROSPECTIVE MEP candidates battled it out during a hustings at Bournemouth University last night.
Just one week before voters take to the polls for the European Parliament elections, candidates from six of the seven parties standing in the South West region took part in the Question Time style debate in front of a 100-strong crowd.
On Thursday May 22 Dorset residents will vote to elect their local Members of European Parliament (MEP) by selecting the party they wish to represent them at the European Parliament.
The county falls within the South West constituency, which has six MEPs, and covers from Cornwall to Gloucester and also includes Gibraltar.
Last night’s debate, organised by students from the university’s media school, largely focused on whether the UK should remain in the European Union (EU).
Other hot topics included immigration, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and reform of the EU.
Prospective MEP candidate Mark Chivers, representing the Green Party, received a round of applause for his comments regarding the UK’s membership to the EU.
He said: "Too many decisions that affect our lives are made in corporate boardrooms. The EU will continue to exist if we pull out or not. Why would we not want to be there participating in the decisions that affect us.”
Current MEP Ashley Fox, Conservative, used the debate to reiterate the Tories’ call for “renegotiation” on EU membership.
He told the room: "I'm an optimist. If we go to our European partners and we seek a new deal I think we will get one."
The lead prospective MEP candidate for the Labour Party Clare Moody spoke of the need to remain in the Union for “protection for workers.”
And UKIP’s MEP prospective candidate Julia Reid received mixed reaction from the crowds with her calls for the UK to withdraw from the EU.
David Smith, MEP prospective candidate for An Independence from Europe Party, also called for the UK to withdraw from the EU and said his party wanted to scrap tuition fees.
Lib Dem prospective MEP candidate Jay Risbridger used the debate to call for expansion of the EU.
He added: "In ten years time about 30 per cent of population the will be over 65. Who is going to look after them in their care homes? Who is going to pay taxes for their pensions? I think we need more immigration."
And it was a rather embarrassing affair for Amanda Hopwood, MEP prospective candidate for the English Democrats, who repeatedly apologised to the chair as she struggled to answer questions.
Following her somewhat brief opening speech she said: “I’m sorry. I haven’t prepared for this.”
The British National Party is also standing for the South West region in the European Parliament elections.
The organisers of the hustings said no candidates from the BNP had been invited to attend due to the university's anti-racist policy.