The hustings event on Thursday evening at the Hough End Centre was an absolute success and I would like to thank Peter Davidson from Unlock Democracy and the South Manchester Reporter for putting in all the hard work to arrange it.
I was especially pleased that North West Tonight's Jim Hancock was able to come and chair the debate. He had promised me five years ago, when I won, that he would not overlook this seat again- BBC cameras were not at the Withington count that night and missed it!
The hustings was very well attended, despite it being on at the same time as the leaders' debate on TV. All the candidates were on good form and we discussed a range of important issues. Overall, I felt the quality of the questions and level of debate was fantastic and I find it encouraging that so many people came along to question the people who want to represent them in Parliament.
This kind of event is important for the electorate to get to know their candidates first hand and to discuss the issues that matter to them. It is also a good opportunity for people to find out what independent candidates stand for as they are often overlooked.
The UKIP candidate was very entertaining throughout and performed very well. It was interesting that the Labour candidate didn't seem to want to talk about local issues at all and also seemed to distance herself from the party line as often as she could, for example on Trident renewal and on the Iraq war.
In all, I enjoyed myself immensely and would also like to extend my thanks to the audience for a stimulating discussion.
What's really amazing was when I got back to the office, it was still full of volunteers who had come to watch the debate while doing campaign work!