Tuesday, 28 April 2015

David Akan - Green Party Candidate for Shepherd's Bush

David Akan of The Green Party
David Akan is the Green Party candidate for our local constituency of Hammersmith, hoping to unseat incumbent Labour MP Andy Slaughter. We asked David the same questions we put to the other candidates - questions which focus on local rather than national issues. After all, our local neighbourhood is where we live and work - these are the problems that we face every day.  So, what do the Greens offer the Shepherd's Bush voter in the upcoming election?

Elections tend to focus on national issues, but for many voters local problems can be much more pressing. What would you say are the big issues that will face our community over the next five years?

David:  In the last quarter of 2014 the average cost of a terrace house in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush was £1.3 million. Even a couple with each partner earning the very decent income of £35,000 a year would only be able to borrow a mortgage of around £300,000. Owning a home in the area is becoming unreachable for ordinary people. But it’s not only owning – renters are also being squeezed out of the area. Like most of those that grew up in West London I’ve seen my friends leaving London to move somewhere they can afford to live.  Locals are constantly being pushed out of their community and it is the poor that are hit the hardest.

The Green Party would protect and extend the amount of social housing that is available. We would also insist on proper levels of affordable housing being built by private companies. We would remove the restrictions on councils borrowing to build social rented housing. In the long term this pays for itself. This would give poorer people the chance to live somewhere they can afford and create a downward pressure on rents and house prices.

The Conservatives lost the Council Elections in May 2014, despite being a "flagship" Council, and apparently a favourite of David Cameron. What did they do wrong, and why did they fail to get re-elected?

David:  To use a cliché I would say that they knew the price of everything, but the value of nothing. It’s been the consensus among the three old guard parties that everything can be sold if someone is willing to pay. The last council supported many controversial and unpopular redevelopments as well as the closing of A&Es.

Their mistake was that they believed that reducing council tax was going to be all that mattered to local people. In fact national opinion polls show that people would rather tax weren’t lowered if it means protecting what’s important to them. As a council tax payer, myself, I know that it needs to be paid in order to protect what’s important to me and my local area.

Hammersmith Park: Under Threat?
A big issue for us in Shepherd's Bush, especially families with young children, is the future of Hammersmith Park. Local opinion seems to be strongly against the Play Football development. Is there any realistic prospect of re-visiting the planning permission and changing the outcome?

David:  Everyone should have access to public parks and green spaces. Access to green space has been shown to reduce stress, increase academic achievement and help reduce mental illness. Major developments in a local area need to involve the local community from the very beginning and be conducted in an open, accountable and democratic way.

Charing Cross Hospital. Image: Wikipedia

An even bigger issue for many locals was the closure of Hammersmith A&E and Charing Cross A&E. Was this a closure too far and if so what can be done to restore our local health services?

David:  It is ridiculous to reduce the amount of hospital capacity in West London. People have rightly been outraged by these decisions and I hope that they will be reversed. My understanding is that part of the decision to reduce A&E capacity was that people were leaving A&E without receiving treatment. However, chest pains and severe headaches could be benign, that does not mean people shouldn’t attend A&E. The Green Party is committed to properly funding the NHS and to bringing it back under public control in its entirety.

Hammersmith Hospital. Image: Wikipedia

Voters can often feel disconnected from both national and local politics - what can be done to make residents of Shepherd's Bush feel like their voice can actually make a difference?

David:  It is very easy to feel powerless, but apathy only makes it more likely you’ll be ignored. The Green Party were included in the TV debates thanks to a petition signed by hundreds of thousands of voters, so campaigning does work. The most important thing to do is to join together with other people that share your values, whether that be with a charity, pressure group, political party, trade union or community group. The Green Party has been championing devolving more power to the local level and giving a voice to those that are often left out of mainstream politics.

If you could change one thing about the way politics works at Westminster - what would it be?

David:  It needs to be more representative of the public. Proportional representation would be a great help, but I would like to use this opportunity to talk about parties making themselves more representative. It feels as though the Green Party is the only party genuinely committed to this.

In London, half of our Parliamentary candidates are women. We are campaigning for job-share MPs to allow those like two of our members who applied to stand as a joint MP in Basingstoke to serve in Parliament. One of them has a disability that prevents her from working full time and the other is the main carer for two small children. They were turned down under current rules.

Join for £5!
Our Young Greens group has no lower age limit and costs only £5 a year for students, one of our deputy leaders is a Young Green. As someone that isn’t necessarily from a typical politician’s background – state educated, works in construction, son of a Turkish immigrant - it is incredibly important for me that politics changes to represent our society.

2010 General Election Data for Hammersmith. Source: Wikipedia

Is it a two horse race in Hammersmith, and if so is a vote for a third party a wasted vote?

David:  You can only get the policies you want by voting for them. I believe that if you look at the impact the smaller parties are having on the national debate that it is quite clear that votes for us are not wasted. The Green Party now has a higher membership than either the Liberal Democrats or UKIP. Polls have shown us to be the second most popular party among young people and the second most popular among Muslims.

 The Green Party are proud to stand up for immigrants, for fairer pay and fairer taxes, for our public services and for the environment and wildlife. These things set us apart from the other parties and if they are the type of things you believe in then a vote for us in never a wasted vote.

The Bush Telegraph offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. To read our interview with Conservative candidate Charlie Dewhirst, follow this link. And to read our interview with incumbent Labour MP Andy Slaughter, click here.  Read about the Campaign to Save Hammersmith Park, find out about our new Farmer's Market, see what's on at The Bush Theatre, find out the latest news on the future of Shepherd's Bush Market, and the Council's plans to upgrade the Goldhawk Road and the Uxbridge Road

If you would like to contribute a story about our neighbourhood, email us at shepherdsbushblog@gmail.com.

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