CONSERVATIVE candidate Michelle Donelan was heckled by a hustings audience in Chippenham this week as she defended her party’s pledge to extend the Right to Buy scheme to housing associations.

Her claim that for the sale of one house they would be able to build two or three new ones prompted laughter among some gathered in St Andrew’s Church on Monday.

Labour opponent Andy Newman said: “Why Michelle has such a difficult job in defending this policy is because it was written on the back of a fag packet by Conservatives when they realised the campaign wasn’t going their way.

“Next week we’re going to invade the Falklands.”

He admitted Labour didn’t tackle the problem of housing shortage and apologised, saying he had three adult children at home who could not afford to move out.

His description of the policy as ludicrous and disastrous met with enthusiastic applause.

But Miss Donelan was also clapped when she asked the audience: “Don’t you think everyone deserves to own their own home?”

Mr Newman also jibed at UKIP, saying: “Am I the only one that thinks UKIP got their policy on social care from watching the Jeremy Kyle show?”

The dig came after their candidate Julia Reid said: “There are people in our country who say they are ill when they’re not. Anybody who’s actually seen the programme on daytime TV (I don’t watch daytime TV very often), but you do see people who say they can’t walk and then they’re filmed playing golf.”

Asked what one policy they are most proud of, Miss Donelan said doubling the amount of free childcare for three and four-year-olds to 30 hours a week. She said: “I hear all the time, childcare costs a fortune. It costs so much you can’t afford to work. We’re giving people choices and opportunities again.”

Julia Reid said: “We’re committed to spending £3 billion a year on the NHS. We want to keep it free at the point of delivery from cradle to grave.” She said UKIP would save £8 billion a year by withdrawing from the European Union and put £130 million into Alzheimer’s research.

Mr Newman said: “7,000 jobs in the Chippenham constituency are related to EU membership. We will stop recruitment agencies only recruiting from abroad on lower wages, and abolish £1,200 fees to take an employer to tribunal. Workers are entitled to be treated with dignity.”

Tina Johnston of the Green Party passionately called for a more equitable society. She said: “The rich have increased their wealth vastly whilst the NHS and local councils have had their budgets cut,” and referenced the threatened Connect2 bus service to the hospital and folding homeless charity Community 4.

The biggest applause of the question went to Liberal Democrats’ Duncan Hames when he promised to put an extra £3.5 billion into mental health services, after revealing about a quarter of the cases brought to him in his constituency surgeries over the last five years were related to the issue.

Other topics raised by the audience were faith schools, Trident, foreign aid and the Personal Independence Payment.

Afterwards Sir Richard Needham, Conservative MP of Chippenham / North Wiltshire from 1979 to 1997, said the standout speaker of the night had been Andy Newman.

Chippenham town councillor Mary Fallon said: “That’s because he wants to split the Lib Dem vote.”

Sir Needham added: “Our girl’s got a bit to learn yet”, but said nevertheless he was certain she would win on May 7.