Election candidates quizzed in debate

Business leaders from West and North Yorkshire have taken part in a ‘Question Time’ election debate.

Candidates from five political parties pitched to members of West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce at a ‘hustings’ event ahead of the General Election on 7 May.  The debate was also joined by the presidents of Bradford and Leeds Chambers, both part of the regional Chamber group.

Speakers were asked to focus on what they and their parties can do for business growth and economic development within the region; the focus was on the business policies contained in party manifestos.  The event was chaired by BBC Yorkshire’s Political Editor, Len Tingle.

Paul Mackie, President of Bradford Chamber, said afterwards: “This was an event to try and drill down into the policies the parties would implement, if elected, to support businesses in Yorkshire.  I think the jury’s still out on which party, overall, business should vote for.  The parties – and the next government – should avoid headline-chasing for political point-scoring and concentrate on the long-term stability of the economy.  That can be assisted through sound policies such as a simple tax system, boosting international trade, supporting young people into work, and letting the market work better.”

Leeds President Gerald Jennings added: “All the speakers, even the Green candidate – often portrayed as anti-business – were able to demonstrate some support for business, but nobody was able to deliver a knock-out punch or even change the minds of those present on who they planned to vote for.  We stressed to the candidates that businesses want to see certainty, clarity and consistency from government , and that is now all up in the air in this election campaign.  That’s a worry for business.  However, the debate was lively and the candidates left better informed about business than when they arrived due to some good points made from the floor.”

Issues raised during the debate included reform of the European Union, productivity and wealth creation, how to tackle late payment to small firms, the UK’s prospects under a Labour-SNP pact, the Coalition’s record and Britain’s debt crisis.

The event took place at Yorkshire Building Society’s Broadgate premises in Leeds.  The candidates were:

Stewart Golton (Lib Dem, Elmet & Rothwell)

Rob Butler (UKIP, Huddersfield)

Shan Oakes (Green, Harrogate & Knareborough)

Steve Clapcote (Labour, Shipley)

George Grant (Conservative, Bradford West)

Speaker Profiles & Manifesto Commitments here

President comments on Hustings event