The three candidates in the South Swindon constituency in the general election faced the voters at a hustings organised by BBC Wiltshire and the Adver.

Robert Buckland of the Conservatives, Labour's Sarah Church and Lib Dem Stan Pajak gave answers ranging from the economy, Brexit, the NHS and education to non-gender binary conforming people and their opponents' good points.

And while huge surprises in each candidate’s position were in short supply, the audience learned that Mr Buckland, originally from Llanelli, is an excellent singer.

The hustings was divided into two sections.

The first hour, which will be broadcast at 7pm on Friday, December 6 on BBC Wiltshire, saw questions submitted prior to the start by audience members put to the panel by chairman and politics reporter Dan O’Brien.

The first question was about what each party could do to improve Swindon’s town centre if elected.

Mr Buckland said: “It’s important the council has access to available funds to improve the town. There’s money from the Historic High Streets and Future High Streets funds, and also money set aside for Swindon from the Stronger Towns fund, which we can decide what to do with.

“We need to sort out the bus boulevard in Fleming Way and I want to see the Kimmerfields development of housing and offices going ahead.”

Ms Buckland said the nature of people’s use of town centres was changing and Swindon’s should change with it.

He said: “The town centre will need to be smaller – the idea of people living somewhere and travelling somewhere else to shop is going away. If more people live in the town centre, they’ll bring independent shops with them – coffee shops, restaurants, other stores, and that would revitalise it, but in a different way than just a place where people go to buy things. It’s about experiences now.”

Mr Pajak is Swindon Borough Council ward councillor for a large part of the centre and was dismayed.

He said: “The town centre has really gone downhill, it’s very poor now. I feel we missed an opportunity to regenerate it, that other places like Cheltenham and Reading have taken.”

A question about pressures at the Great Western Hospital brought a brief history lesson into the Private Finance Initiative.

Mr Buckland blames the Labour government when the hospital was built. Ms Church said it was a previous Conservative administration which brought in PFI and Mr Pajak got a laugh when he absolved his party of all blame for the financing scheme.

Mr O’Brien tried some quickfire questions.

None of the candidates think voting should be mandatory (unless, for Ms Church, there’s a ‘none of the above’ box) and Mr Pajak drew applause for saying he would bring in proportional representation "to make every vote count".

And they don’t approve of civil disobedience, but do have some time for the protesters of Extinction Rebellion. But, again, Ms Church pointed out women wouldn’t have the vote without civil disobedience.

And Mr Buckland said NHS drug prices animal welfare standards and patient confidentiality must not be diminished in order to get a trade deal with the US after Brexit.

He said: “We speak about chlorinated chicken, but for me it’s the poor animal welfare standards that mean the chicken must be chlorinated which are more the problem. We want those standards, and standards of environmental protection to go up not down.

“Donald Trump has said the NHS is not on the table and the US doesn’t want any part of it. But I would say that we must be firm and say those areas are not for negotiation in any trade deal.”

With Ms Church saying she was willing to take Mr Trump’s words at face value, and Mr Pajak saying he didn’t trust the US president, Mr O’Brien challenged the Conservative candidate.

He said: “You say Mr Trump says he’s not interested – but both he and Boris Johnson have had a difficult relationship with the truth.”

One of the lighter questions was what did each candidate like about the others.

Mr Buckland praised Mr Pajak’s optimism, and Ms Church’s public spiritedness. Ms Church praised Mr Pajak’s love of Swindon and civic duty and Mr Buckland’s ability to be a personable and affable opponent. Mr Pajak praised both for being able to campaign in a friendly respectful manner and added Mr Buckland is “a terrific singer”.

Summing up, Mr Buckland said a Conservative government would bring to an end “dither and delay over Brexit”, Ms Church promised Labour would bring “real change” and address rising rates of poverty, and Mr Pajak promised to stop Brexit, and represent all parts of society.

Host Mr O’Brien said afterwards: “I was really struck by how well thought-through the questions we had submitted were. They weren’t just torn from the national headlines, but people had clearly really thought about it and engaged with the issue.

“I think we gave the candidates and the audience the chance to explore issues of local interest, not just all the big stuff you hear about all the time on the national news.”

'They even seemed to listen to each other'

Put three politicians on the campaign trail, all vying for the same seat, and it can be heard to get a word in.

That was the task of BBC Wiltshire’s political correspondent Dan O’Brien at the hustings.

Not only did he have to ask the questions to get them to speak, at times he had to get them to be quiet as well.

One of the biggest laughs of the evening was having asked the candidates to answer a question in one sentence, Mr O'Brien admonished Liberal Democrat candidate Stan Pajak – who by then was well into his fifth or sixth sentence.

Dan said: “I did have to stop them now and again. But I think all three candidates did really well.

“They hadn’t been told of the questions beforehand, but I felt they were properly thinking about the issues, and thinking about their answers.

“They even seemed to be listening to each other.”

The respect and possibly even affection each candidate had seemed evident in the way they responded to each others’ answers.

Dan said: “While they did weave some comments on the other parties and their leaders into their answers, it didn’t seem like what you have on the national scene – it didn’t look like they were all trying to hit a knockout blow with a prepared line, and it’s all about the applause.

“I thought they all had their moments where they got applause and where the audience were less impressed. I really enjoyed it.”