Sussex student takes part in Brighton by-election debate

Candidates from three parties were pressed on key issues at the debate on February 5

On Monday, candidates in the East Brighton by-election took part in a public debate in which one Sussex student would be running .

Edward Wilson, a Politics student at the University of Sussex, is running as the Conservative candidate in the Whitehawk city council by-election which will be taking place on February 8. The by-election has been called following the resignation of Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle.

Wilson is the Vice President of the Sussex Conservative society and the Events Organiser for Sussex politics society, Liberate the Debate.

The debate on Monday was chaired by University of Sussex professor of Journalism, Ivor Gaber, who specialises in political journalism.

Ed Baker representing the Green Party, George Taylor for the Lib Dems, and Edward Wilson representing the Conservative Party attended, but the front runner, Labour's Nancy Platts, declined to attend. Wilson criticised Nancy's absence, describing it as arrogant.

Wilson was questioned on his blog post entitled 'In the defence of Enoch Powell – why he was right on immigration'. He had previously said he would be "mortified" if anyone confused the content of the post with his own views.

Wilson called the post an "academic exercise" for Liberate the Debate, saying that free speech is "clearly falling down," referencing the recent protest against Jacob Rees-Mogg at UWE.

Green candidate Ed Baker claimed it "didn't read as an academic article," adding: "forgive me if I'm not convinced". Liberal Democrat George Taylor acknowledged that the article had been taken out of context, but questioned why Wilson hadn't "just printed it out instead of putting it online".

Wilson said that "on [Sussex] campus, we've got Conservatives unable to express their opinions," claiming we "can't have academic debate any more," and that he gets "slated for being a white man".

He defended Liberate the Debate, claiming it's "a great way for students to express themselves at a university where they can't express themselves".

This comes in light of the free speech debate sparked by UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge, who was invited by Liberate the Debate to talk at the Sussex University, but declined to talk on campus due to the conditions of the Students' Union.

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There were certainly some tense moments.

Many other topics were discussed, however, including homelessness, mental health services, and the NHS.

Questioned on the NHS, Wilson said that £480 million is going into infrastructure in Sussex from the Conservative government. However, Liberal Democrat George Taylor noted NHS staff who say it's simply not enough.

When talking about the hard work his mother had always put in for him, the Greens' Ed Baker said it was clear where Wilson's "sense of privilege comes from". "How dare you," Wilson responded, talking about the hardships he has faced and the background he comes from.

Wilson said that mental health services definitely need to be "pushed". On Brexit, Wilson said we should embrace it, saying that it opens us up to the rest of the world, linking this to Brighton's diversity.

Among many policies, the Greens' Ed Baker proposed Brighton redefines "affordable homes," suggesting it be around 30% of the income of someone earning the £9 Brighton living wage, rather than the current 80% of the market rates, thus making housing more affordable.

George Taylor insisted that, just because he'd be the only Liberal Democrat on the council, as well as the youngest member at just 18, he'd still "make plenty of noise".

The by-election will take place on February 8. If you live in Whitehawk, you can register to vote here. To find out your ward, enter your postcode here.