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  • Varsity reported live from the Cambridge Union, as housing, Brexit and the welfare state were discussed
  • Daniel Zeichner (Labour), Stuart Tuckwood (Green), Julian Huppert (Lib Dem) and John Hayward (Conservative) discussed the big issues facing students
  • One of the final chances for candidates to make their case before polling day on 8th June

Correction: Lib Dem candidate Julian Huppert voted in favour of the bedroom tax but now says he regrets his decision.

9:27pm And with that, the breathless race to 8th June rolls on. Caitlin Smith and Danny Wittenberg are off for a lie down and a drink perhaps – and we aren't even the ones standing.

9:26pm Tuckwood shuts up shop and thanks the hosts and the audience.

He reminds us that "mainstream politics is failing to deal with the pressing issue of climate change." 

9:25pm Hayward hits back at Zeichner, saying the new world of Jeremy Corbyn would involve higher debt and more taxes.

He says Conservatism is "progressive politics in action, not just talking about it" and promises to work with Theresa May, rather than around her.

9:25pm Zeichner discusses a "traumatic time in the world" which needs a Labour government to "move away from old politics towards something very different."

He has been waiting for this moment all his life. (Or at least since the last one went by two years ago.)

9:24pm Huppert homes in on mental health, announcing he is "proud of what I managed to achieve."

9:23pm The candidates now have the difficult task of mediating between party politics and the heart-breaking tone of the previous question.

9:22pm Zeichner says £4.6 million has been taken out of the welfare system by the Tory government and Corbyn wants to reverse this.

9:21pm Tuckwood notes the question is a reminder of why all this matters. Politics isn't about party games.

"Caring is a complex, difficult task and we need professionals," he says. "If the government can find the money to bail out the banks, it can find the money to bail out people."

9:19pm As the only disabled member of the panel, Hayward steps in to claim the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) has become "far more compassionate".

9:17pm Huppert, who voted against the bedroom tax amongst other welfare benefit cuts. He wishes he could have done more while in office, but attacks the Conservatives for being "far too hard, far too brutal" towards people with disabilities. The Lib Dems' manifesto pledges include abolishing the tax.

9:15pm Hayward reminds us of his history working in social care abroad: "I am proud of what this government has been able to do in terms of mental health issues."

"Don't simply blame the state," he says, contritely. "Society is about the glue of all the institutions between the individual and the state."

The audience doesn't seem convinced as the Conservative candidate discusses the responsibilities shared by charities, local business and neighbours. "We are looking our neighbours!" shouts one.

9:11pm The fifth and final audience member has a moving premise to his question. His friend, who suffered from learning difficulties, sadly passed away yesterday.

"John, it's all because your party abandoned him." he says to the Tories. "And Julian, you call yourself a liberal, but you voted for government cuts."

He asks these candidates how they sleep at night knowing both their parties are "complicit in such deaths".

9:08pm Since the Lib Dems would refrain from forming a coalition (coalescing?) with any party besides the Greens and flying pigs, Zeichner asks, "What is the point of the Liberal Democrats?"

9:07pm Huppert highlights the gaping chasm in our political spectrum, holding up the idea of either Amber Rudd or Diane Abbott as Home Secretary as "atrocious".

The would-be-hipster candidate doesn't rate either of them: "May and Corbyn as PM is not a good concept. I would love Tim Farron as prime minister, but I understand that isn't very likely right now."

9:05pm Hayward tries to channel his inner statesman: "The first duty of government is to keep people safe."

He claims Corbyn has a record of voting on the said of terrorists in the House of Commons.

9:03pm Tuckwood isn't here to defend Corbyn's record, but argues talking to people with whom you disagree is important. He wins some applause for pointing out that the Tories sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

9:02pm Zeichner tells us youngsters that the '70s and '80s were a terribly fraught time and suggests Corbyn has learned from his past experiences.

High praise indeed from the Labour man for his leader: "He's not the monster he was painted as."

9:00pm You don't need to go to Cambridge to guess how the different candidates are going to answer this one...

8:59pm The fourth question concerns Jeremy Corbyn: "Is it appropriate for a man with connections to terrorists in Northern Ireland and the Middle East to be prime minister?"

8:58pm Tuckwood talks about the having another vote after a final Brexit deal is thrashed out: "Let the public have the final say."

8:57pm Like a drinking society shark, Brexit keeps coming back...

8:54pm Zeichner accuses UKIP of colonising the Conservative Party. (The Ukippers will love that.)

Hayward, however, denies May is pursuing a hard Brexit. He believes EU leaders will work in our mutual best interests from now on.

8:53pm The nitpicking over the numbers rolls on. It seems a fraction of MPs failed to vote against Article 50, but there is still no doubt they enjoy the European Union.

8:53pm The heated Brexit debate continues. And continues.

8:52pm "Why didn't Lib Dem MPs turn up on their first chance to vote on Article 50?" comes the zinger from Zeichner. 

"That's not true!" cries Huppert.

The Chair weighs in: "Julian, do you represent a party of cynics?"

Huppert threatens to show us his voting record.

8:49pm The third questioner is puzzled: "I don't understand why you [Zeichner] find Brexit so troubling when you voted for the referendum?"

8:48pm Tuckwood challenges these figures. Where's Diane Abbott where you need her?

8:45pm "A Tory government would put more people on the streets," says Zeichner in contempt of their "callous attitude" towards poverty.

"Nonsense!" responds Hayward. He defends the Conservative record on reducing homelessness with more figures than Tripos.

8:44pm Back to far more serious matters, Tuckwood reverts our attention to the local homelessness crisis. 

"We need to restore proper local authority funding in Cambridge as well as elsewhere." 

8:43pm It's one-all at half-time in the Champions League, by the way.

8:42pm Huppert actually spent this afternoon serving lunch to the homeless. He stresses the importance of responding to the mental health concerns of homeless people before, during and after their ordeal.

8:41pm Pushed to address the responsibility element directly, Hayward waxes lyrical on the 84 different homelessness projects the Conservative governments have funded nationally.

8:40pm In comes question number two: "Do the former coalition partners accept responsibility for the high numbers of homeless people post-austerity? What should be done to alleviate the issue?"

8:38pm From X Factor to Deal or No Deal. "No deal on Brexit would be a disaster for Cambridge," says Labour's Zeichner.

"Any deal on Brexit would be a disaster for Cambridge," the Lib Dem retorts.

8:37pm Hayward risks sounding like an X Factor auditionee despite his impressive credentials. A former carer in international development, he claims to be "the only one on the panel with experience of working in some of the most difficult countries in the world."

8:35pm Zeichner goes in hard on the "negative, zero-sum" approach to the EU exhibited by May and her Brexit team. He praises French president Emmanuel Macron, who is taking a much more positive approach to Euroscepticism.

8:33pm A cheeky accusation of "back biting" over Brexit from Tuckwood to Hayward precipitates the first audible groans from the audience.

8:32pm Hayward tries some clever rhetorical trick with the word "optimistic". He promises to make sure Cambridge remains a centre of science and innovation.

8:31pm Huppert insists there is no way the Lib Dems would ever dream of entering a coalition with a pro-Brexit party, Labour included. Zeichner duly points out that two years ago the Lib Dems were governing with David Cameron's Conservatives.

8:30pm The first question of the night is aimed at the Lib Dems: "If you were to go in coalition, would you go back on Brexit policy?"

8:29pm Last but (almost certainly, if you check the Varsity opinion poll) not least, the Lib Dems' Julian Huppert:

"Nationally, I get things done: anti-fracking laws, international development aid, anti-snoopers’ charter. The big issue at the moment is Brexit."


8:27pm Labour's Daniel Zeichner opens by commiserating with students who are yet to finish their exams.

Zeichner aims to "undo some of the unfairness that so blights our country".

8:26pm The Conservative candidate John Hayward pledges to be a "strong voice for Cambridge".

Bigging up his connections with Theresa May, Hayward wants to "make sure the concerns of Cambridge, particularly surrounding Brexit are heard in the corridors of Westminster."

8:24pm Stuart Tuckwood of the Green Party sets a precedent for chirpsing the Union's heritage before getting on with his first gambit. An NHS nurse, he describes himself as a "committed campaigner and community activist".

"Modern politics has failed young people", says Tuckwood. "And it has failed us all."

8:22pm Cambridge Union President Harry Stovin-Bradford introduces the key players. Opening statements coming up...

8:21pm Here come the boys! Tonight's participants (in no particular order) are as follows:

Stuart Tuckwood (Green)

Julian Huppert (Lib Dem)

Daniel Zeichner (Labour)

John Hayward (Conservative)

8:20pm ... Having said that, the turnout is little short of a trickle so far. Presumably because everyone is following the live blog, mind.

8:18pm As regular Varsity readers well know by now, the Labour candidate, Daniel Zeichner, snuck home with the Cambridge seat at the 2015 General Election, just 599 votes ahead of the Lib Dems and Julian Huppert. With such little difference between the parties, events like tonight do matter.

8:13pm It promises to be one of the highest-quality clashes in recent memory, featuring two giants of the game: one hoping to retain the crown, the other hoping to win it back. No, this isn't the UEFA Champions League Final. It's the local General Election Hustings from the Cambridge Union!

We're Caitlin Smith and Danny Wittenberg and we'll be your live commentators for this evening's showdown. Kick-off is fast approaching...

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