Monday, 5 June 2017

The Candidates - Joyce Onstad

Joyce Onstad
Joyce Onstad is the LibDem candidate for Hammersmith in the General Election on Thursday. In recent weeks we have seen the Conservative Party's polling numbers decline, but the chief beneficiary of this has been Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, with the Lib Dems generally less successful in benefitting from the Conservatives' troubles.

However, all politics is local, and the Lib Dems will be looking to improve their position in our Constituency on the result in 2015. Could an outsider take the seat? It seems unlikely, but Joyce Onstad insists it is possible. We put the same questions to her that we did to the other candidates last week.

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

There are two major areas where issues have changed since the last general election. The biggest change is Brexit and the danger posed by the hijacking of the Conservative party by the right wing Nigel Farage faction of the party. The Liberal Democrats campaigned the hardest to Remain and although we accept the will of the people, we continue to fight for our values of openness, tolerance and unity.

The second trauma in our communities has been the deep cuts to social services which have now reached crisis proportions now that the conservatives have a majority in government and there has been practically no opposition due to constant infighting within the labour party giving Teresa May a blank check to do as she wishes. The Liberal Democrats during the coalition were a moderating influence and not only fought cuts but instituted measures such as the Pupil Premium and school lunches, increased free childcare to 15hrs a week and secured the biggest rise in pensions with our triple lock policy. Our Manifesto will save the NHS by putting a penny in the pound on income tax to give the NHS and social care services the cash needed. We will invest nearly £7 billion extra in children's education.

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

Unlike Corbyn's Labour Party that accepts Brexit is a done deal, the Liberal Democrats are completely united in their commitment to fight a hard Brexit which will damage jobs, business, NHS and our schools. People voted to leave on June 23rd and we accept their will, the terms of leaving were not on the ballot. They were sold false promises such as £350 million a week for the NHS. That is why we believe the people should have a final say on the terms once they have been negotiated. They can choose to accept them or if they do not like them, they should have the choice to remain in the European Union.

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

The threat to downgrade Charing Cross Hospital is a major concern to me as it is to all residents of Hammersmith. This has been the result of a Tory government that has been running rampant in slashing funding for health services in the absence of an effective, coherent and strong opposition. Here once again the divided Labour Party is having damaging ramifications at the local level. The Liberal Democrats have been filling the gap in Labour's absence by galvanising opposition, for example tabling a motion in the House of Lords to kill a Government bill that would severely restrict disability benefits.

Lack of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions in Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith. Many key workers such as teachers, police and nurses can no longer afford to live here anymore. Young people who would like to continue staying in Hammersmith have no option but to move. This will have grave consequences for the character and dynamism of our area. Liberal Democrats have warned developers that if they don't build enough affordable housing, then we will.

I am a big supporter of community led initiatives to solve local problems such as knife crime. I have been inspired by organisations such as the QPR Community Trust which make such a difference in terms of inclusion, community cohesion and support for schools.

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

I am optimistic because where there is a will, there is a way. The important thing is for any redevelopment to be truly participatory, including the views and active input from traders, the local community and users of the market.  For me, I would like to see something that retains the character and vibrancy of the over 100-year-old market. It would be difficult to imagine Shepherd's Bush without the market. People come from all over London to visit this market and it would be a big shame if it was not protected. There are other markets that continue to thrive in London and they could be models for a way forward.

The Lib Dems saw their share of the vote fall heavily at the last General Election. How do you see things being different this time?

Things are different this year because we are living in unprecedented times. Out on the doorstep, people who normally vote Conservative or Labour have told me that given the gravity and magnitude of Brexit and its impact on the future direction of our country, they are switching to the Liberal Democrats this time. They are voting for Joyce Onstad on June 8 to send a loud and clear message to Westminister. Here in Hammersmith 70% of people voted to remain in the EU. Only the Liberal Democrats are completely united in their determination to fight a hard Brexit and retain the values of tolerance, openness and unity that we all hold dear. People are telling me that the issues at stake are much bigger than any individual. Many people also think that Hammersmith could use a breath of fresh air and new ideas.

You can visit Joyce's official page here.

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