TEMPERS flared as Colchester’s General Election candidates faced questions from the public during a hustings in the Mercury Theatre’s big top.

More than 600 residents took the opportunity to grill Mark Goacher (Green), Martin Goss (Lib Dem), Tina McKay (Lab) and incumbent Will Quince (Con) on topics inlcuding Brexit, school funding, policing, climate change and transparency in politics.

The debate got heated when a member of the audience asked candidates’ thoughts on “institutional racism” in both main parties.

Mr Goacher hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson for using phrases like “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles”.

He said: “When that is coming from the top there are questions to be asked about what is being condoned lower down.”

Mr Goacher also criticised the Labour Party’s response to anti-Semitism and there was an angry confrontation with the audience when he brought up the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition.

Mrs McKay acknowledged there were problems in the party but said work was being done to combat them. She said: “Anybody harbouring such views should be kicked out of the party.”

Mr Goss said: “Our parties all need to ensure they are setting the standard of behaviour they expect.”

During a debate on honesty and transparency, Mrs McKay referred to infamous “Lib Dem bar charts” and hit out at the party delivering a leaflet under the title Colchester Guardian.

“I have been accused of being parachuted in by Momentum, who I’m not even a member of,” she said.

Mr Quince told the audience to “judge him on his record”. “There are times I challenged my own party and voted against my party,” he said.

But he was jeered by the crowd when he said he was proud of the Government’s record on climate change. A resident demanded to know why Mr Johnson dodged Channel Four’s debate on the issue. Mr Quince said the key was global leadership. “We can talk about what we’re doing in this country and we should, but it is so important we ask our global partners to match our ambition,” he said.

Mr Goacher said the Greens planned a Green New Deal featuring a carbon tax, a tax on frequent flying and serious plans to get more people on to public transport.

He said: “We need to move away from this idea transport means easier facilitating the use of cars.”

Mrs McKay promised the next Labour Government would “lead the world in fighting climate change” with its Green Industrial Revolution.

Mr Goss, Colchester Council’s transport boss, told the audience the Lib Dems want to go carbon neutral by 2045 and they’ll ban single use plastics by 2023.

One of the biggest cheers of the night came when Mr Goacher criticised misinformation on Brexit.

“Once we pass the withdrawal agreement that is only the start of the process,” he said.

“What Get Brexit Done means is actually get to the second stage of chaos.”

Mrs McKay said: “We need to sort Brexit but not at the risk of not getting it right.“Labour is not picking sides or saying to either side of this huge fracture, you are wrong, but they will be acknowledged.”

Mr Quince said the Conservatives were the only party honouring the result of the referendum.

He said: “All of these parties said they would respect the result, but they trotted down to Westminster and went against that.”

Mr Goss said a No Deal Brexit would be like “jumping off a cliff with no safety net”. He added: “We need to put a credible vote back to the people.”