RICHARD Ottaway's comments about people moving to Manchester if they cannot afford to buy homes in London was one of the main points of debate as Question Time came to Croydon last night. Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative politician and chair of the Public Administration Select Committee, said he disagreed with his Croydon South colleague. "I think it probably came out wrong," he said during the debate at Fairfield Halls on Thursday night. "What people want is to live in the communities where they grew up." Mr Jenkin was joined on the BBC panel by former home secretary Alan Johnson, Liberal Democrat business minister Jo Swinson, NUT general secretary Christine Blower and Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens. They were asked about what Sir Richard said when he appeared on the BBC's Sunday Politics show last weekend. When asked about London's housing crisis, the politician, who is stepping down at next year's general election, said people who cannot afford to live in the capital should get "on the trains and up to Manchester". Mr Jenkin said the solution was to build more homes but said the country's wealth and attention needs to be more evenly distributed. He said: "We have to make it that you can have a career in Manchester, that you don't have to come to London. "We've got to try and balance out the fact that we have this mega-city here in London, a fantastic global hub, but it really must not crowd out the rest of the country." The audience member who asked the question, said she was losing staff because there is not enough affordable homes in the area. "What we need is more affordable housing," she said. "It has to be affordable to people who are in local authority jobs, teaching positions, nursing staff." Christine Blower said restrictions placed on greenbelt land should be relaxed to ensure "there are affordable houses for people who want to stay in the area where they grew up". Jo Swinson, MP for East Dunbartonshire, said the problem in London was foreign investors buying up houses. Peter Hitchens praised Sir Richard for daring to speak the truth and said the housing shortage had been caused by "the greatest wave of mass immigration in our national history" which would lead most of the country to be "concreted over". The journalist added: "Mr Ottaway has done the terrible thing that politicians are never supposed to do, which is tell the truth." Another topic discussed on the night was whether next Thursday's teacher strike, organised by the NUT, was justifiable. Bernard Jenkin said it was not. "The police can't go on strike, the armed forces can't go on strike [so] I don't think it's right for teachers to go on strike." Christine Blower said the action was necessary to address teachers' concerns about pensions, workload and pay. She said: "We're heading towards a place where we will not be able to recruit enough teachers unless we get the pay and, critically, the conditions right." Mr Hitchens said the right to strike is an "incredibly valuable part of a free society" but added that "it simply isn't the case that you can do it when you feel like it". He added: "It is really the nuclear option. I honestly don't believe you have no alternative." When the conversation turned to the European Union host David Dimbleby chose flamboyant Ukip candidate Winston McKenzie, in the audience, to ask a question. Mr McKenzie likened discussion on changing the Treaty of Lisbon to "Batman and the Riddler" and launched into a speech calling for an in-out referendum on the EU which ended: "We're the experts. We know what's going down. Let's put the great back in Great Britain." John Jefkins, who represented the Lib Dems at the Advertiser's pre-election debate in May, was also in the audience. He attacked Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to stop Jean-Claude Juncker becoming the president of the European Commission.
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