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Medway Messenger holds Rochester and Strood by-election hustings event at the Corn Exchange in Rochester

By Medway Messenger reporter

Who will be the next MP for Rochester and Strood? The Medway Messenger's crucial by-election debate has addressed many of the issues.

All the main candidates turned up to answer questions from the public about their plans for the future of Rochester and Strood.

The packed event was chaired by our political editor Paul Francis.

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The audience at tonight's KM hustings

The audience at tonight's KM hustings

Questions kicked off with a debate on the Lodge Hill Development which has been a major feature from the beginning.

Ukip's Mark Reckless has previously been accused of a u-turn on the project.

Green candidate Clive Gregory got a round of applause for his answer, arguing the council should be championing affordable housing, not the Lodge Hill Development. 

Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst said some development at Lodge Hill is acceptable if the infrastructure is in place. 

Lib Dem candidate Geoff Juby agreed, but Mr Gregory and Mr Reckless said development is not acceptable under any circumstances.

The debate turned to the wider issue of trust in politics, another subject that's been high on the agenda so far.

An audience member reminded Mr Juby of the party's u-turn on tuition fees. 

Immigration was inevitably brought up with a Welsh audience member claiming they were told to "go home."

Mr Gregory attacked Ukip, claiming the party is responsible for increased racism in the area.

He said: "We are seeing hatred rear its ugly head in Medway - they are using Ukip as an excuse for their racism."

Some were angry after a wreath was laid with the Ukip logo in the centre

Some were angry after a wreath was laid with the Ukip logo in the centre

Mr Reckless denied the accusations, and said he's surprised by how "inhumane" the UK's immigration policy is.

In an awkward exchange Kelly Tolhurst got Labour candidate Naushabah Khan's name wrong.

She condemned bigotry, but said more needs to be done on immigration. 

A question from the floor asked about the rights and wrongs of putting party political branding on remembrance wreaths.

Ukip's Steve Newton, who will stand in the neighbouring Chatham and Aylesford constituency in next year’s general election, caused anger in Chatham yesterday with a branded wreath.

All the candidates today agreed it wasn't a good idea, and remembrance should be apolitical.

A member of the audience asked the candidates - "if you were elected, who would you not want to win?"

Labour's Naushabah Khan and Conservative Kelly Tolhurst picked Jayda Fransen from Britain First, standing as Vote Britain!

Clive Gregory, Greens, and Geoff Juby, Lib Dems, chose Mark Reckless, who in turn said Geoff Juby.

Independent Charlotte Rose asked if the other candidates supported sexual equality for the elderly and people with disabilities?

Unsurprisingly, all the candidates said they did. 

To end the debate all the candidates were given a minute to explain why they should be the next MP for Rochester and Strood. 

Clive Gregory, from the Green Party, said they are the only true opposition because "banks and corporations own politicians."

The Conservative's Kelly Tolhurst claimed she is a "local champion" with constituents' interests at heart, and not a career politician, a line she used in her debate against rival Tory candidate Anna Firth.

Mark Reckless also repeated his message that only as part of Ukip can he "keep his promises."

Labour's Naushabah Khan said she would prioritise troubled Medway Hospital, and try to improve education in Medway.

Ms Khan also argued more must be done to offer affordable housing.

She said: "We've got to find ways we can provide good quality, affordable housing for people in Rochester and Strood."

Voters go to the polls on November 20

Voters go to the polls on November 20

The campaigning has been intense for Rochester Strood with Ukip the favourite to win.

As a result the Conservatives are throwing everything they've got at the seat, with David Cameron making five visits to the constituency to bolster support.

Some residents are getting a bit overwhelmed by the attention from the Tories.

According to the Times, senior MPs sent down to help out have been asked to lick envelopes instead of doorstep voters as many constituents are simply becoming worn out by the constant campaigning. 

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