A SHOW of hands of the audience was good news for the Liberal Democrats at the packed Euro election hustings in Winchester last night.

Their candidate Catherine Bearder MEP clearly beat Daniel Hannan, the Conservative MEP.
There was further good news for the pro-Europeans as around two-thirds of the audience said they wanted to remain in the EU.

Earlier the candidates were asked about immigration, trade, jobs and energy.

On immigration Alan Stevens, for UKIP, said he favoured a points system which would see more skilled non-white, non-EU immigrants. He added: “The EU is a jobs killer. In Hampshire the Ford factory was shipped out to Turkey with EU money.”

John Howarth, for Labour, said he knew of a young Pole from Southampton who had won entrepreneur of the year and now employed 35 British people. “Immigration has not been bad for the British economy, but when the economy goes bad people blame the immigrants. We have learned tolerance and we need to stop hate-peddling.”

Mr Hannan took a strong Eurosceptic line. “We are currently trapped in the only trade bloc on the planet that is shrinking economically. That is no place for a country like ours.”

He said the EU trade bloc was based on geographic proximity which has been overtaken by technological change.

Ms Bearder said thousands of British jobs would be lost if the UK left the EU. Southern-based firms Siemens, GEC, GKN, Unilever, Airbus and Nissan had all called for the UK to stay.

Keith Taylor, Green MEP, said it was vital to put people and the environment at the centre of things and not private profit.

He said complaints that immigrants were taking housing, whereas there was insufficient social housing because of the Conservative Right to Buy policy of the 1980s.

There was cross-panel agreement that the benefits system needs to be tightened; that was a domestic issue and nothing to do with the EU.

Around 150 people squeezed into the conference chamber in the Guildhall, a decent number although the meeting was originally booked for the much larger Bapsy Hall.

The hustings was organised by the cross-party European Movement. The polls are on May 22.