Yesterday I voted for an early Election and I am already enjoying the campaign, even if it is going to be a pretty gruelling seven weeks.
I have been re-selected as the Labour candidate for Hammersmith and cleared my diary so I can spend every day out talking and listening to people in Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and Fulham.
You don’t have to wait until I knock on your door, though. Let me know the issues that matter to you here.
However, I am shocked by the cynicism and dishonesty that Theresa May exhibited in manufacturing an election on false grounds and in contradiction to her often repeated promise.
Two weeks ago she was telling journalists and her own MPs to their faces that there would be no poll under 2020, while planning the current campaign with her closest advisers.
Her excuse – the threat to Brexit – is palpably untrue. She triggered Article 50 by a majority of 5 to 1. She, a Remain voter, has embraced not just Brexit but the hardest and most damaging type of Brexit, partly because she is in thrall to her own extremists and the anti-European press, and partly because she thinks she can use it to divide her opponents.
Nothing of this makes her a suitable candidate to be Prime Minister.
I am happy to fight this as a Brexit election, if she wants. As I’ve written before I think Brexit and in particular May’s hard Brexit – out of the single market, out of the customs union, cosying up to dictatorships in a desperate effort to replace lost European trade – is a disaster for our country on social, economic, cultural and security terms.
However, if we let Brexit be the only issue, we let this Government off the hook. Brexit is Britain’s downhill path, and the harder it is, the steeper the decline. But it is also a distraction from the more urgent and more dramatic collapse of our public services and quality of life.
Let me highlight just three immediate crises that affect people in H&F every day.
Charing Cross – disaster delayed but not avoided
Charing Cross Hospital was zoned for demolition and downgrading from a major emergency hospital to a glorified clinic and treatment centre in 2012. That scheme should now be underway, with the bulldozers on site.
But pressure on services has only grown in the last five years, leading to longer waiting times, and a redoubtable campaign by the Save our Hospitals group and H&F council has forced the demolition plans to be put off until 2021.
So, good news, except the threat still hangs over the Hospital, and as a result it is in slow decline from failure to attract staff and a lack of basic maintenance.
I want Charing Cross to have its future as a major, world class hospital guaranteed.
Schools out – of money
Every single school in H&F is seeing its budget cut for the first time in two decades. Starting in 2013 the cuts have accelerated and by 2020, if this government is re-elected, will amount to 15% or even 25% for some schools.
These are huge and unsustainable cuts, meaning basic supplies, like books and stationery, and teaching jobs will go.
After just seven years of Tory government we are again seeing scenes from the 1990s when, after four terms in office, school roofs leaked and patients were backed up on trolleys in hospital corridors, or died on waiting lists.
Homelessness has risen 130% since 2010. That was not inevitable. In the previous ten years under Labour it fell by three quarters. But this is only the worst symptom of the housing crisis, which sees developers building luxury blocks for sale overseas, while local people cannot afford to rent or buy anything in the borough.
A Conservative government will not build affordable homes, will not help people onto the housing ladder and will not tackle the high rents and low standards in the private rented sector.
These are the issues on which I will be campaigning in this election.
But life does go on, even at election time.
On Sunday Fulham Cricket Club and HF Refugees Welcome are teaming up in an initiative to help refugees in the borough integrate and feel welcome. If you want to be involved, here are the details.
Next week is the last full week before Parliament dissolves before the Election. I am leading a debate on the dangers of tumble dryers and other appliances that easily catch fire with tragic and sometimes fatal consequences. This follows last summer’s terrible fire in Shepherds Court overlooking Shepherds Bush Green.
My petition, calling for recall of such product, as happens in many other countries, is almost at 100,000 signatures. Help me get it there for Wednesday’s debate.
I will also speak in a debate on Post Office closures. Post Office Ltd has confirmed that the main Post Office on Shepherds Bush Green will move to Westfield later this year, despite strong local opposition. Over 250 residents responded to the consultation citing concerns about accessibility and the lack of space within the proposed site.
I am very disappointed by this result; however, we have won a concession from Post Office Ltd in that they are looking for a site for a new sub-office in a shop premises around the Green. Suggestions for possible sites are more than welcome.
The excellent H&F Law Centre has started an advice service at the White City Foodbank on Tuesdays – details here. I wish Foodbanks didn’t exist – they are an indictment of government policies that have driven hundreds of thousands of families into poverty. But the fantastic people who run them and the support of H&F Council means we have one of the best services in the country here.
Later in the summer Sister Mary Joy Langdon will be walking a marathon to raise money for the wonderful Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre, which she runs. The Centre offers riding to hundreds of disabled children but runs on Mary Joy’s tireless work, the goodwill of volunteers and the generosity of donors. I will be walking at least part of the way with her, and of course she is looking for sponsorship.
Finally, The Upper Room, a local charity that helps the homeless of which I am a Patron, is holding a fundraising evening to raise money to expand its work. They are looking for people to attend, or to donate prizes for the auction. Further information can be found here.
Whatever happens in politics – and in Hammersmith – over the next few weeks, I am proud of the selfless devotion so many people in our community show to those in need.
See you on the road.