The East Wiltshire candidates spent a sunny evening talking through tough topics with locals in Bishopstone.

The event was held at the Royal Oak pub on Monday, June 24, and was attended by True and Fair Party candidate Pete Force-Jones, Liberal Democrat candidate David Kinnaird, Conservative candidate Danny Kruger, Labour candidate Rob Newman, and Reform candidate Stephen Talbot.

Green Party candidate Emily Herbert was not in attendance.

Many residents were undoubtedly passionate, giving Conservative MP Danny Kruger a few heckles, although considerably fewer than Reform party candidate Stephen Talbot.

The other candidates got away without much disruption, with True and Fair Party candidate Pete Force-Jones struggling more with feedback from the speakers than the audience.

From left to right: Labour candidate Rob Newman, Conservative candidate Danny Kruger, True and Fair Party candidate Pete Force-Jones, Lib Dem candidate David Kinnaird, and Reform candidate Stephen Talbot (Image: Jessica Moriarty)

They were challenged with questions on the climate crisis, public transport, farming, and education.

Mr Kruger said that the government had invested “significantly” into education but that there should also be support for young people going down the vocational route.

He noted, however, that “in many ways”, the country had “got worse” in the time his party had been in government and that he regretted “many of the decisions taken”.

Mr Kruger said: “What I think is going on much more broadly is profound changes to the way we live, driven by technology going back all through our lifetimes, and the systems of government, including the public services, are not equipped to the challenges that we have.”

He concluded: “I think we will improve the experience of teachers and improve retention if we have a strong society and if the life teachers lead is better, and that is perhaps a bigger question, I think, than just pouring more money into the top of the current system.”

Meanwhile, Mr Force-Jones said: “How do we keep teachers in school? Pay them.

“You may have noticed there was a massive strike last year, the government came back and said it has all been funded, it hasn’t.

“It’s coming out of budgets that should be going to other purposes, like buying books for the kids.”

He added: “What we are proposing is that any graduate who goes into a public service job, if they stay there for five years, we halve their student loan.

“If they stay for seven, it gets wiped out completely.”

The Labour candidate, Rob Newman, said: “Disinvestment in our public services has left so many of our schools on the brink.”

He added: “Talent is evenly spread in our country but opportunity isn’t and investment isn’t, and we need to make sure that we are once again investing properly in education across the country."

According to Mr Newman, this would mean getting more qualified teachers into the classroom, a curriculum review, more mental health support, and parity of esteem between vocational and higher education.

Lib Dem candidate David Kinnaird said: “I think the joy has been sucked out of teaching completely by what this government has done.

“To fix it, we need a number of things, we’re suggesting to have a delegated mental health professional in every school, for both staff and for pupils, to extend free school meals for all students in poverty, with the ambition to extend that for all primary children when public finances allow, and increase school and college funding above the rate of the inflation every year, and to end the scandal of crumbling schools and fix the backlog of repairs.”

Finally, Mr Talbot said: “We’re looking for a 20 per cent tax relief for those who are willing to take their children out of the already overstretched state system.”

He added: “If you are going to entrust the state to try and bring up your children, it’s going to have to get money from somewhere and you’re only going to get more money for this if you allow the economy to grow.

“The economy is only going to grow if you put in place some tax cuts for private enterprise to actually bring in money.”