Colourful candidates debate in Epsom

"The elephant in the room" was raised at a colourful Epsom candidates debate last night - which candidate did Labour and the Greens want voters to give their electorate vote to?

Almost 100 members and friends of the Epsom Rotary Club braved a cold, rainy winter's night to gather at the Epsom Bowling Club and hear what their candidates had to offer.

The candidates were given five minutes each to introduce themselves and highlight their party's key policies before questions were opened up to the floor, during which a member of the audience addressed what Labour's Michael Wood described as "the elephant in the room" - who did the Greens and Labour suggest Epsom voters give their candidate vote to so as to avoid "propping up National"?

The Greens' Julie Anne Genter said her party's policy was to appeal for constituents' party, not electorate votes, however she suggested they "voted for the candidate who they felt best represented them".

Mr Wood said he chose to run in Epsom this year because the "democratic outrage" of National's support for ACT's David Seymour made him "sick".

Prime Minister John Key said he would vote for National's Epsom candidate Paul Goldsmith, Mr Wood said, and what was good for him should also be good for the people of Epsom.

Stopping short of suggesting Epsom constituents strategically voted for Mr Goldsmith to prevent Mr Seymour from winning the seat, Mr Wood suggested voters "have a look at the candidates and make your own decision."

Mr Goldsmith conceded he didn't vote for MMP and didn't "particularly like the system", however he said giving their electorate vote to Mr Seymour and their party vote to National would give voters another three years of stable government.

"My simple message is if you want the country to keep moving in the right direction, party vote National."

Mr Seymour said he also didn't vote for MMP, joking; "I have a very strong alibi, I was in primary school at the time".

However, voting for him was the best way to ensure a stable center-right government made it into Parliament, he said.

Independent candidate Grace Haden used the her time to answer the question to readdress her cause celebre, corruption, highlighting previous ACT MP John Banks as an example.

"Corruption is like cancer: ignore, ignore it and we'll all go down," she said.

Her comment brought sighs and cries of "oh God" from the crowd.

The debate also provided the first public appearance for NZ First candidate, former solicitor and self-confessed "just a one week old politician", Cliff Lyon.

A late-comer to the campaign for Epsom, the grandfather of eight and "solid Grey Power member" said it was a disgrace that jobs were more scarce and wages were going down, and he highlighted NZ First's policies, including free GP visits for seniors, and controlling immigration which he claimed would ease pressure on the health system.

The Conservative's Christine Rankin was notably absent.

- By Brendan Manning of APNZ

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