Labour leader candidates fight it out during BBC 5Live debate in Stevenage

A HUSTINGS debate which will help decide the future leader of the Labour party took place in Stevenage this morning (Thursday).

The five candidates hoping to become Gordon Brown’s successor - MPs Diane Abbott, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham and brothers David and Ed Miliband - took part in a BBC 5Live debate between 10am and 12pm at The Oval Community Centre, just off Vardon Road.

An audience of 300 5Live listeners attended the event, hosted by 5Live’s Victoria Derbyshire, as each candidate put forward their case before the leader is announced at Labour’s annual party conference on September 25.

Asked why Labour chose Stevenage for the debate, current favourite David Miliband said: “If we can’t win in Stevenage we won’t have a Labour government.

“The big issues like housing, jobs and unemployment are all relevant in this town.”

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Ed Balls was critical of the recent cuts to public services, including the scrapping of many building projects at Stevenage schools which were due to go ahead as part of Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme (BSF).

He said: “It’s public services vandalism that we’re about to see under the Conservative-Liberal coalition.

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“We made a promise and we would have stuck to that.

“It’s really unfair to the people of this town - it’s the wrong thing to do and a real loss to Stevenage.”

Ed Miliband, who has gained the support of the North East Hertfordshire Labour Party, was also critical of cuts.

He added: “There have been really difficult cuts coming to places like Stevenage at the wrong time and in the wrong sectors.”

Leader of Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor, who has endorsed David Miliband, said: “David has got the experience and the appeal the Labour party needs to win the support of somewhere like Stevenage.”

This latest event in Stevenage, now under Conservative control after Labour lost the seat in this year’s election, follows the visit of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown in April when he attended The Oval Community Centre as part of the election campaign.

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