An at times fiery hustings event with parliamentary candidates for Exmouth and East Exeter took place at Exmouth Community College on Tuesday (June 19).

Candidates Paul Arnott, Helen Dallimore, Olley Davey, David Reed, Garry Sutherland and Dan Wilson descended on The Elizabeth Lee building to take questions from members of the electorate on topics such as sewage discharge, the NHS, the war in Gaza, fixing a 'broken Britain', taxation, healthcare, providing opportunities for young people in Exmouth and Brexit.

The event started at 7pm and took two hours, with crowds only being released at 9pm instead of the scheduled finish time of 8.30pm.

All candidates started with an opening statement, which summarised the key points in one minute. 

Dan Wilson started by saying: "I moved to Exmouth 24 years ago and I live here with my wife and four children where I work full time as a tradesman, I am privileged to be a town councillor and EDDC councillors for Halsden. I am the few local candidates that you have here and the great thing about being a local candidate is that I know our history, achievements and issues and I'm excited for the future. I am standing as an independent as I feel the main parties have a very stagnant party line, I feel there is no excitement for this election although people are unhappy with the Tories and I want to be your representative to parliament not a party representative."

Garry Sutherland addressed when he was ordered to pay a total of £1,964 to Weymouth Magistrates' Court on June 27 for causing unnecessary suffering to a dog by kicking it in Langdon Lane, Chideock, on July 24, 2022.

Sutherland was also banned from owning a dog for a period of two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work within the next 12 months. 

Addressing that at the hustings, he said: "I want to start off by clearing something up as I am getting attacks on social media about an incident I was involved with, I want to give my side of the story, that day and I hope no one in this room has to go through this. I was out with my wife and family dog and my nine-year-old boy, my dog was the subject of an unprovoked attack and was bitten by an out-of-control dog whose owner had his lead around his shoulders. Now I hope no one has to witness their wife screaming out for help while the owner did nothing. I had to make a decision to jump in front of my wife or children to protect them."

Paul Arnott, leader of East Devon District Council, was up next and echoed Mr Sutherland's comments about being attacked on social media and urged people to 'keep it clean'.

He said: "80% of this constituency is in East Devon. A decade ago there were 45 conservative councillors at EDDC out of 60. That was not good. I'm able to lay credit for being the key figure in changing that. Today the Tories in East Devon are down to 15 from 45 and I'm now the leader of EDDC for a fifth year of a truly progressive alliance of Lib Dem, Independents and Greens. I bear the wounds of succeeding a shambolic conservative regime."

David Reed from the Conservative Party said: "I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to stand up for our home and stand up for the country I love. Many generations of my family have come from this constituency, I'm married to a local woman, our families here and I really believe the time that I have spent in the Royal Marines has made me the person I am today. This is my home and the only reason I'm getting into politics is to improve it. It's as simple as that for me. I spent most of my adult life in public service working for our country and I now believe I'm ready to stand up and serve again. Since being selected almost a year ago I've gone out to 10s of thousands of residents and businesses to understand the issues. Whether it's cleaning up sewage pushing back on over-development, improving social care or more apprenticeships. I've listened and getting on with the job."

Olly Davey was next: "I'm standing in this election because I want to make sure the environment features in the debate, despite government tendencies to think short term. The decisions we make in the short term will impact the future. We are losing vast amounts of the natural world all while asleep at the wheel. And despite the projects taking place around the UK, biodiversity loss and a changing climate carry on undebated. People in this country, Broken Britain are crying out for change and I suspect they will see a new sign saying 'under new management, same menu. Only the greens dare to offer real policies with real hope for future generations."

Helen Dallimore was last and said: "This election is about change, and I want to bring that change and be your voice in Westminster. I've been listening to people suffering as a result of tory failures. I've lived in Exeter for 12 years. I've experienced firsthand parties in the pandemic. Covid contracts under this government have damaged the trust of the people. I want to re-build trust and use my professional experience to tackle toxicity and make sure diverse views are heard. I'll prioritise the environment and with Great British Energy, we can benefit from opportunities and cost-effective green energy. I'll continue to campaign against sewage pollution and ensure special measures for water companies are put in place. I want to rebuild public services and ensure we can access the NHS, and educate children so they can thrive. I want to make sure Exmouth and East Exeter is a better place to grow up and grow old in."

Compere David Paisley, who lives in Exmouth and is a political journalist for I News, did an excellent job at keeping all candidate's questions brief and fair. 

Two other independent candidates are also standing in the constituency, who weren't at the hustings event on Tuesday: Peter Faithfull and Mark Baldwin – Climate Party.

Nicky Nicholls, from Sideshore organised the event, and told the Journal afterwards: "I think the event was a success, we had a lot of interaction from the audience and it gives them a chance to catch from the audience or from home

"Thanks to all the candidates for taking part, the audience for taking the time out of their evenings to be here, and Devon Media who provided the live stream on our and the Journal's Facebook page site so people could watch at home. And thank you to Exmouth Community College for providing the venue."

A Question Time-style event offered residents a chance to question six candidates hoping to be the first MP for the constituency of Exmouth and East Exeter.

The electorate will go to the polls on July 4 to vote for a new Member of Parliament to represent the area. 

Residents could submit questions to put to the candidates at the event, and via the live stream.

Watch the event back on the Exmouth Journal or Sideshore Facebook page.