COPELAND’S four Westminster hopefuls were quizzed on everything from Brexit to domestic abuse at a packed hustings event this week (Thursday).

Conservative Trudy Harrison, Labour’s Tony Lywood, Lib Dem John Studholme and the Green Party’s Jack Lenox – faced a two-hour barrage as they each made their respective parliamentary pitch.

Before the would-be MPs made their opening remarks, meeting chairman Reverend Dave Harkison warned the audience – and the candidates themselves – that he was also a football referee and “did not stand for nonsense”.

And he was indeed was forced to intervene on more than one occasion, reprimanding some of the more vocal audience members for interrupting the parliamentary wannabes or for talking over them.

The discussion became particularly heated when candidates were asked whether the British people should be “proud or ashamed” of Conservative PM Boris Johnson, which sparked the same question about Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

An emotional Trudy Harrison insisted the NHS was “not for sale” following claims that this would be the price of a post-Brexit trade deal with America.

Candidates were asked questions ranging from whether there should be a geological disposal facility for nuclear waste in Copeland to how they would address “inequalities” in the health care available across the region.

The effect of austerity, the need for investment in the region’s road and rail networks, and the recruitment crisis in the NHS were among the issues dominating the event in Whitehaven’s United Reformed Church.

Responding to a question over what they would do to tackle domestic abuse in Copeland, Mr Lenox said the Green Party intended to make misogyny (hatred of women) a “hate crime”.

But the proposal drew an incredulous response from a particularly vocal audience member who asked him to clarify “what level of misogyny would be illegal?”.

This prompted Mr Lenox to deny that this manifesto pledge would see people prosecuted “simply for being a man”.

John Studholme said he would seek “more advice” about how to deal with the situation, confessing that he was “not an expert”.

But also said that he felt caring and support services offered a better approach than “punishment”.

He called for greater investment in social services and advocated the creation of more refuges for victims.

Trudy Harrison admitted domestic abuse posed a “real challenge”, particularly for communities in Copeland and Allerdale.

“I’m really pleased that the Women out West Centre has been able to open up on Kells and that’s thanks to a £170,000 of government investment,” she said.

She argued that legislation was key, and that the domestic abuse bill now going through parliament would give police the powers needed to tackle the issue.

And with 130 children in Copeland taken into care and 160 in Allerdale, Mrs Harrison said that the family court system also needed more “attention”.

She said: “Far too many of those children have been removed from their parents when quite often mum has cried for help; she’s fled the family home only to have the worst possible treatment because her children have been taken away and given to the perpetrator.”

Tony Lywood revealed that his mother left his father in 1963 as a result of domestic abuse when he was seven and had witnessed it “first-hand”.

He said that the problem was “complex” and “not an easily soluble” but called for more safe houses for the survivors of domestic violence.

He added: “Even though domestic abuse is not necessarily directly related to poverty, it certainly is a massive contributory factor.

“So, what we’ve got is poverty caused by austerity and not having the ability to deal with it.

“We have 20,000 less police than we had ten years ago so how can they possibly deal with things of this nature?”

In his closing speech, he claimed that he would not be a “puppet” of his party and “would stand up for what I believe”.

He said: “Copeland is not immune to the national issues – climate change, flooding and the lack of police on our streets, cuts in schools and the NHS.

“I want to address the real issues that Copeland is facing right now. And whatever this boils down to, in my view the Conservative Party and the people who represent that party are for the rich and powerful in our country.

“They go to London and vote for more austerity and more cuts and more misery for the people of Copeland.”

But Mrs Harrison told the audience that the economy was “much stronger” under the Conservatives, with far more people in work.

She said that the country was “now coming out of austerity”, living within its means and was far more able to “invest in vital services” including the NHS

The staunch Brexiteer also pledged to “campaign for nuclear” and to work to ensure that the region exported its skills “across the globe” and to support the creation of a relief road for West Cumbria.

But Mr Studholme described some of the promises as “fantasy”, adding that the country faced a “very serious situation” and a “turning point”.

He insisted that Britain would be better off remaining in the EU and must move away from its status as the “relic of an empire” and start to think of Britain as a European country.

“I would like us to see a county and a society that my grandchildren would be pleased to live in and at the moment I don’t see that,” he said.

Speaking in his closing words, software engineer Mr Lenox said that tackling climate change, social justice and spreading wealth more fairly throughout society were among his priorities and those of his party.

He said: “Every green vote in this election is a vote for this bigger future; is a vote to transform the UK and build something good together; it’s a vote for making sure that our best days are yet to come.”