Labour candidate for Kingston and Surbiton, Lee Godfrey, was the first to speak in a series of events organised by the Kingston Politics Society and the KUSU’s LGBT Officer, where Kingston’s candidates are given the opportunity to speak to KU students about their party’s policies.
One of the major topics was Labour’s promise of reducing the university tuition fees to £6,000 if elected. Some students wondered why the fees will not be further reduced.
Mr Godfrey said: “I’m working towards a more socially just society, and part of that would be to press down tuition fees, but I can’t promise that [they will be reduced even further]. We would have to get into power to be able to do anything with it.”
He also added that an announcement will be issued next month about the changes to debts repayment policies.
The Labour Party is the biggest party on campus, according to the exclusive poll The River carried out in October last year, which showed that 44 per cent of Kingston students would vote for Labour.
Mr Godfrey said that it would stand between either Labour or the Conservatives winning the election, and he focused on implications for Britain’s future should the Tories would win.
He said: “It will be a government of even more economic neoliberalism, even more inequality and we will be a nation that I believe will be brutal and nasty.
“If you are very rich, you will do absolutely fine, in fact everything will be done for you to be even richer, and if you are poor, or disabled, or vulnerable, unemployed or unlucky, than God help you, because you will be punished for the sin of being unsuccessful.”
Other issues that came up were Labour’s strategy of ignoring UKIP, for scapegoating immigrants and for not addressing social inequalities.
Although Mr Godfrey failed to answer the question of how Labour will work towards eradicating racism, sexism and homophobia, he was clear in his stance on immigration and how to deal with UKIP.
He said: “I have not voted for any anti-immigrant stance. Immigrants do not bring down wages, which is their main accusation. Employers are the only ones who can bring down wages, and it is the employers who abuse this ability.”
In response to the UKIP question he said: “I think ignoring them was a bad idea. I think they are a racist party and we need to expose them for what they are, not just for our reputation internationally, but for our cooperation with Europe and the world.
“We will take UKIP on head on.”
There were mixed responses from the audience on Mr Godfrey’s performance. Final year criminology student Dawan Ismael, 22, was impressed with the Labour candidate and said he was likely to vote for him.
International relations and politics student, Nils Schroder, 22, was more impressed with the decent turn-out, saying it was “a good, open and democratic experience”.
However, philosophy student and active member of Kingston Socialist Workers Party, Richard Donnelly, 28, said he believed the Labour candidate is in the wrong party and that he is “a slick politician”.
He said: “He argues against inequality, racism and of scapegoating migrants, but at the same time that is exactly what the leaders of his party are actually doing. He should be in an alternative party.”
Before Mr Godfrey was faced with questions from the audience he told the crowd about his working class background, his resentment of private education and his profound love and loyalty for the party.
Nearly welling up, he said: “Some people ask me if I get paid to be a Labour candidate, but when I think of what I’ve got from the Labour party, I wouldn’t dare take a penny from them.”
He also talked about the importance of politicians having real life experience before entering parliament, claiming that the current MP for Kingston and Surbiton, and the Liberal Democrat’s candidate for this year’s election, Ed Davey, was an example of a politician who had no sense of what real life was like for normal working class people.
The organisers said they decided to arrange these events to encourage student engagement before the upcoming election.
Mr Godfrey said after the event: “A lot of people tell me that young people are disengaged, but I don’t think that at all, I think I saw a lot of passion today. They asked me a lot of difficult questions, and they’re quite right to.”
The next local candidate to visit Kingston University will be the Green Party’s Clare Keogh on the 12 February, followed by the Conservative Party’s James Berry on the 16 February. Ed Davey from the Liberal Democrats will be on campus on the 12 March, and the organisers are hoping to get Ben Roberts from UKIP in on the 5 March. On the 31 March there will be held a Question Time session with all the candidates.