IT WAS the turn of candidates looking to win the South Swindon seat to face public questions at the Wyvern on Tuesday.

Following on from the Adver’s North Swindon event the previous night, more than 300 voters arrived eager to see what those looking to represent them had to say.

Robert Buckland for the Conservatives, Anne Snelgrove for Labour, Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn for the Green Party, John Short for UKIP and Damon Hooton for the Liberal Democrats took questions from Adver editor Gary Lawrence.

From the future of policing in the town to immigration, many topics were discussed as a result of the questions submitted by readers and audience members.

As expected, those in attendance did not hold back in making their thoughts known if they liked an answer or equally, if they disliked an answer.

South Swindon is one of the closest constituencies in the country and with just over a week until the polls open, every answer mattered.

One of the first questions of the night was on the issue of Trident, the country’s nuclear deterrent.

Understandably, passions were high with the candidates split down the middle. The Conservatives, Labour and UKIP have backed the renewal of Trident while the Liberal Democrats have called for it to be scrapped.

John Short said: “I believe we do need it. It has protected us for generations and will continue to do so. Trident has been proved to be very effective and helped this country remain free. It is a cornerstone of the realm.”

However, this was a view which Talis of the Green Party passionately disagreed with, saying: “How can we expect countries we call dangerous to see us any differently if we keep this weapon?

“A man in this country recently died with no food and his fridge turned off to save electricity. How dare we spend money on a weapon we can’t ever use.”

Both Anne and Robert agreed that while nuclear weapons around the world must be reduced, it was impossible to predict future threats to this country and therefore Trident should be renewed.

The unity between the two quickly dissipated when the discussion turned to the topic of immigration.

While everyone agreed action needed to be taken against the traffickers responsible for bringing migrants to their death in the Mediterranean, the Conservative and Labour candidates traded blows over their government’s respective records on immigration.

Anne Snelgrove said: “When David Cameron came to power in 2010 he said he would cut immigration in this country, no ifs, no buts.

“In fact what we have seen is net migration has actually risen by 50,000 since the 2010 election. It is a complete failure.” 

Her Tory opponent Robert Buckland countered: “I’m not about to take lectures from a party which completely lost control of immigration when they were in power.

“Much of what we have seen is due to movement from within the EU. Immigration from outside the EU has actually fallen. We need to look at the various reasons for immigration and not just as one thing.”

Throughout the two discussions, all candidates had to cope with heckles and cheers from a split crowd as passions rose.

Despite an interval, the second half of the debate started in an equally lively fashion as the issue of benefits was discussed. The question related to people who spent their life on benefits.

While all the opponents of Robert Buckland were critical of the under-occupancy charge, more commonly known as the Bedroom Tax, he defended his government’s record of getting people into work.

He said: “We spend billions on our welfare system so we need to make sure it is fair. Individual scare stories are never helpful but we can't have a system that traps people in a lifetime of poverty

“Since 2010, the number of households with someone who has never worked is falling which is very encouraging.”

The Liberal Democrat Damon Hooton said despite his party being in office, he was not a supporter of the policy.

"We are quick to stigmatise people and take things away,” he said. “I was never in favour of the Bedroom Tax, I'm still not and I never will be.

"We need to grow the economy and jobs so going to work pays. Wage rises need to outstrip the benefit rises.

"We should park politics when it comes to benefits. All the parties have good ideas on this so I would like to see them come together and come up with a way forward.”

Despite some often lively debates between the candidates, they rarely interrupted each other and save from a few call outs from the crowd many of the candidates were able to get their points of view across.

In the final half hour, there were questions from the audience on a variety of subjects, including zero-hour contracts.

Anne said her party would seek to ban the controversial contracts, which she said created too much uncertainty.

“Our policy is to ban exploitative zero-hour contracts, she said. “Often people are not guaranteed any hours or any income which is a dreadful way to live.

“On top of that, people are often not allowed to look for a second job which I think is just wrong.

“We want to see people paid a living wage and will incentivise employers to do so.”

The Green Party would also get rid of them, with Talis saying: “I want to see zero-hour contracts got rid of and wage brought up.

“We have employers paying below the living wage which costs the country because we have to subsidise them."

Damon was also against zero-hour contracts and hoped his party would abolish them while Robert Buckland said he was against the exploitative nature, he felt banning them outright would see some people lose their employment rights.

Other topics discussed on the night included ways of allowing local people to have a greater say on bus routes as well as whether there was a future for Wiltshire Police as a stand-alone force.

The vote for both the North and South seats will take place on May 7, along with local elections.