Friday, 26 May 2017

The Candidates - Andy Slaughter

Andy Slaughter
Andy Slaughter has represented the London Borough of Hammersmith for Labour since 2010.  Prior to that he was MP for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush from 2005 to 2010 and - before that - Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

He is now fighting for re-election again, facing off against his Conservative rival, Charlie Dewhirst, who also ran against him in the 2015 election. We asked Andy a few questions about the major issues on which voters will cast their ballots.

It's only two years since the last general election. How have the major issues changed?

In one way, they haven't changed. On the doorstep the NHS, schools and hospitals are the issues most often raised. But they have got more intense. The decline of the NHS is more evident. GP, consultant and A&E waiting times are worse. The threat to demolish Charing Cross remains despite demand increasing. And the financial black hole means good clinical staff are leaving and morale is low.

Ninety seven per cent of schools are facing real terms cuts across the country, the first time in a generation school budgets have been cut. Now, the Conservatives are saying they would stop free school lunches for almost a million young children from low-income families.

The housing crisis is appalling. House building is at its lowest level since the 1920s. The numbers of owners and council and housing association tenants has fallen dramatically and only the private rented sector is increasing. Although there are some very responsible private landlords, I am seeing the worst conditions for 30 years - tiny sub-divided flats, insanitary and unsafe conditions and the constant threat of eviction if a higher rent can be got elsewhere.

Pensions are a bigger issue this time, I think in response to the extraordinary announcement by Theresa May that the Conservatives would withdraw the winter fuel allowance from ten million pensioners and break the triple lock, which guaranteed an annual rise of at least 2.5%. There are many poorer pensioners who will be put in difficulty by this, and also the requirement to pay for homecare from the proceeds of sale of your home.

I don’t have space to set out our alternatives in full, but, suffice to say, I reject all these policies which are doing the opposite of what the current government promised and hurting those on low and moderate incomes. Here is a link to our Manifesto for those wishing to know more

In another way, however, everything has changed as a result of Brexit. Cameron's disastrous gamble with the Referendum shows how politicians who act for partisan motives rather than the national interest often come unstuck. Perhaps Mrs May will come to regret calling an election three years early just because she thought she could win it. Brexit is the biggest decision of my political life, though the effects will take decades not months or years to become clear, which leads onto your next question.

Are you still campaigning against Brexit, or do you take the view that the question has been decided by the referendum?

I voted Remain, and though I accept the outcome of the Referendum, I don’t believe that this is an unchangeable decision nor that the terms of Brexit should be left to the Government alone. I voted against triggering Article 50 because neither Parliament nor the people are being given a say on what happens next, and as a result we are heading towards an extreme Hard Brexit.

I think we need to replicate as far as possible the benefits we currently have in the EU – the single market, customs union and support for science and research. I also think we should immediately clarify that EU citizens in the UK can stay with the same rights they currently enjoy.

At the end of negotiations both Parliament and the people must be able to say ‘no’ that is not good enough, either negotiate better terms or find a basis for staying in.

Aside from national issues, what are the local issues in Shepherd's Bush that you are campaigning on?

Charing Cross Hospital is the number one issue. It is unthinkable to me that having closed the A&E at Hammersmith we could lose not only the A&E at Charing Cross but all consultant emergency services there, and indeed most of what makes it a major hospital. Most of the site would be sold under Conservative plans with the loss of over 300 beds.

Schools funding and housing I have mentioned above. Every school in Hammersmith will lose at least 10% of its budget under current Government plans, some as much as 25%. I am pleased to see the Council and the Mayor are investing in genuinely affordable homes again, this is a sea-change from the Conservative policy of selling off empty council homes and even whole estates.

Heathrow is the other big issue. There is no environmental and increasingly no economic case for the Third Runway. Gatwick is a cheaper, easier and just as practical alternative - with a fraction of the noise, pollution and congestion. I really believe we can stop the madness of another 250,000 flights over the area that already suffers 28% of all aviation noise in Europe.

Shepherd's Bush Market
The Shepherd's Bush Market redevelopment failed - is there hope for another scheme that might improve the market?

The victory for the Market Traders in the High Court last autumn was bitter sweet. It was great to see the developer who had tried for seven years to destroy the 100-year old market and replace it with luxury flats seen off. But at what price? Seven years have been wasted. A third of traders were forced out and the Market is still owned by developers having been sold by TfL on Boris Johnson’s watch. It is a classic example of how ideology, even in local politics, can damage communities.

However, I do believe we can now come up with a scheme that will restore and revive the Market. The example of the Bush Theatre shows that Shepherds Bush is on the up but can still cater for its diverse community not become another faceless development zone. The Council is working with the new owners and I hope we will see plans for sympathetic development that retain the character while improving the facilities there.

The Shepherd's Bush Blog offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story, email us at shepherdsbushblog(at)  And don't forget to add your opinion in the comments section below.

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