Hustings at the University of York

Nearly 150 students came to the hustings with candidates from five parties at the University of York yesterday. In their show of hands afterwards, I was chuffed that more said they would vote Labour than for any other party.

The debate was good. It was especially notable for Conservative MEP Tim Kirkhope turning his fire on UKIP and defending EU membership (Tories having, up to now, fuelled and pandered to euroscepticism!). There was also some niggling debt-settling between him and Edward McMillan-Scott, the former Tory and now Lib Dem MEP. No love lost between those two former colleagues!

I tried to focus on the issues that are actually at stake, namely what legislation (setting the rules for the common market) we want our MEPs to vote for. Do we want high standards of consumer protection, environmental norms and workplace rights, which Labour supports, or an unregulated market free-for-all that benefits only multinational companies, which the centre-right parties seem to prefer?

UKIP again tried to change the subject to one which the European Parliament has no power to decide, namely EU membership — this is something which is entirely down to our own national parliament. But no student raised that subject, nor did any advocate a referendum, and only about 4 said they might vote UKIP.

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