You Deserve Better

About Last Night…

Last night we had the main Uxbridge and South Ruislip hustings, organised once again by the Hillingdon Chamber of Commerce. It was a relatively sparse event, with maybe 80 people in the audience, something of a shame given the size of the constituency but a reflect of how disillusioned people are with politics. I wanted to talk a little bit about last night and what some performances indicated. I don’t intend to spend much time at all on my own performance largely because much of what I said has fled my memory, but the time I got to listen to the other candidates is still fairly clear. So here’s some of what I remember of the Uxbridge and South Ruislip hustings. Steve Tuckwell Those who have read my page before will know that I do not hold Steve Tuckwell in particularly high regard, and yesterday’s performance from him did nothing to change my opinion.  He interrupted repeatedly, often completely pointlessly. For example when I said that inflation was 24% over the past 5 years he interrupted to say that it was 2% now – this added absolutely nothing to my point, nor did it contradict anything that I was saying, it’s clearly just a talking point that he has been blindly told to repeat without context. I have a chart demonstrating this (see across).  The recent figure of 2% only takes into account the last 12 months, but focusing only on that ignores the huge impact that the years of extreme inflation have caused, and this is a price that all working families will be paying for decades. In short, the figure of 2% might be technically true, but it is highly misleading to try  to  distract people from the  fact that prices have in fact risen by nearly 25% in 5 years. Tuckwell also repeated his claim that Hillingdon Hospital is fully funded. This is a falsehood – whether it is a lie or him failing to understand what most people define “fully funded” to be, I genuinely don’t know.  I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is just  clueless, but the weight of evidence about just how much he has spread falsehoods on behalf of the Conservatives make me believe that he knows precisely what he is doing. For the avoidance of doubt, the hospital is not fully funded.  It has the funding it needs to carry out the  establishing works – site clearance, installation of utilities, etc, but the actual build costs have been deferred to the next Parliament or beyond. This means they are not fully funded, because the likelihood is that there will be no Conservative government to hold to account for such promises, so in essence the commitment has been handed to the next government, likely Labour. This is not full funding a projects.  This is deferring the problem until someone else fixes it for you.  I can predict exactly what this is going to look like, though.  Tuckwell is hedging his bets, working on the assumption that he is going to be voted out, and he is starting to lay  the groundwork for claims that “the hospital was fully  funded when I left, why is it not fully funded now?”  The answer is that it is not fully funded. It has never been fully funded. The fully funded status of this hospital is identical to the 40 that were promised by Boris Johnson in 2019, none of which have ever seen the light of day.  This is not “fully funded” by any rational definition, because “fully funded” means that the money is in place, and that the works will happen regardless of changes in  government.  People will eventually start remembering the lies, and I am fairly certain we are near that  point in Uxbridge – enough is enough. Interestingly, although he repeatedly commented about being a hard working MP who has put the constituency  first, Tuckwell was very reluctant to highlight any of his voting record in Parliament. This was perhaps not too surprising give one audience member had to remind him that he had in fact voted against calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Aside from that, Tuckwell has also voted to suppress the school safety report that would allow parents to be aware of whether their  children’s schools were built using RAAC, a substance now known to be crumbling far faster than anticipated.  Definitely not an action in the interests of local people, and something I sincerely hope he is ashamed of. At the Uxbridge and South Ruislip hustings last year, Tuckwell claimed not to be Boris Johnson. I ask you, is this an improvement? Danny Beales Beales once again made it very difficult to say anything negative about him, because he remained calm, answered points rationally and generally came across as very statesmanlike. I will say this, however.  An audience member asked him what his views on Proportional Representation are, and he said that he supported them.  I pointed out that in that case he was in the wrong party, because Labour’s 1997 manifesto included a commitment to Proportional Representation, which they reneged on, and their 2010 manifesto included a commitment to Alternative Voting (not Proportional Representation, but a step in the right direction).  We Liberal Democrats fought hard as a party and secured a national referendum on electoral reform with Labour’s preferred system as the one that would replace the archaic First Past The Post system we currently have, and half of their MPs at the time campaigned with the Tories against the system, meaning the referendum ultimately failed.  Labour are absolutely not the party of electoral reform, to the extend that they have kept any promises to reform our broken voting system out  of this manifesto, which is arguable the best opportunity we have ever had as a country to push for real, lasting change to our politics. This is a truly sad state of affairs for Labour because

Even More Economic Ineptitude

This would be a much less wasteful thing to do with money than what Reform UK have in mind. Reform UK are on the move, but unfortunately it’s just another example of them wanting to play at politics without any real understanding of what they are doing.  I am referring to this “manifesto” which has surfaced in recent days on Twitter.  This particular image was shares by a self-declared stand-up comedian, but most of his recent political posts seem to be serious (or at least that looks like it was the intention).  The image in question is this one: Let’s go through claim by claim to see what makes sense, what doesn’t (most of it) and what is just so wrong it isn’t even in the right ballpark. Authenticity First of all, this is not an authentic manifesto. During an election campaign, all materials published by a party  are required to have an imprint on to show who has been responsible for making the claims.  This document lacks any such imprint, meaning it has the same impact as parody.  Nevertheless, several Reform UK candidates seem to be treating this as though it is real, so I will do the same.  Importantly, though, if this is official party policy, they have messed up by not including an imprint. Notwithstanding this crucial omission, I suspect that this is actually a sanctioned document by Reform UK.  I assume the missing imprint is deliberate to allow them plausible deniability if they actually get success, essentially giving them a “Get Out Of Promises Free” card.  So if you are reading this document and thinking “I like that a political party is promising these things” remember that they aren’t.  They are taking you for a fool, and they deserve your contempt for that and numerous other offences. Increased Personal Allowance Nothing wrong with this headline figure as a concept except to say why £20,000 is their chosen figure (minor gripe) and how they intend to pay for it (major problem, as this would cost a huge amount of tax revenue).  My back of envelope calculations suggest this on its own could cost upwards of £200 billion a year, on its own dwarfing the total cost of the whole manifesto stated as £141 billion. Scrap VAT on Fuel Bills and Lower Fuel Duty This seems like a reasonable solution until you realise that the reason why fuel bills are so high is because the free market allows energy companies to charge a high price for their product. Scrapping VAT on energy bills would have a short term benefit, but market forces would react to the reduction in price by nudging prices higher.  In a  few short years we would likely be back to the same issue again, but this time we would all be paying high energy prices and there would be no tax revenue to compensate us.  Worst of both worlds. The right solution is to either price regulate, nationalise the energy companies or introduce a competing publicly-owned supplier that can directly affect the prices offered by the remaining private sector companies. Reduce Corporation Tax to 20% No indication why reducing corporation tax would be a good idea, though it is of course interesting to note that Reform UK Ltd – a corporation – would directly benefit from such a tax reduction.  In reality, small companies rarely pay anywhere close to the 25% rate due to the number of allowances and reliefs they have available, and any income they generate which is paid out as salary is already an  allowable expense. Corporations do not need a lower rate of tax except to directly benefit their shareholders, not their employees. Freeze Non-Essential Immigration This is another costly measure that will likely cause us more problems than it solves, but even if successful, the question has to be raised of “who decides what is non-essential?” At the moment, it would wholly be Nigel Farage, as he seems to be the sole decision-maker for Reform UK, and frankly I wouldn’t want him making any such decisions on behalf of the country. Immediate Deportation for Foreign Criminals This  might as well be renamed “Catch and Release”. If we arrest someone in the UK and sentence them to a jail term, then deporting them back to their parent country is just setting them free instead of jailing them because they have not been sentenced to jail in that jurisdiction.  People would be free to come to the UK to commit whatever crimes they wanted, safe in the knowledge that if caught they would just be sent home again.  I can’t even begin to state what a terrible idea this would be for justice. This is one of those policies designed to sound like it would save money, but in reality all it would do is create a two-tier justice system where ironically the foreign criminals would have far better treatment than native British criminals. New Housing Again, no issue with this in principle as we need more housing. But again, it’s a good idea, but with no costings or even quantified goals. Life Skills in Schools and Scrap Student Loan Interest Sensible policies, but again no indication of who would get to pick the life skills being taught.  As such, the default is Nigel Farage getting to decide on curriculum content, which frankly should terrify anyone even if they actually like him – one man absolutely should not have that much power. In terms of scrapping student loan interest, it’s a start, I suppose.  But the lost interest has to be paid for from somewhere, and there’s no indication of where this will come from. Farming There’s talk here about increasing the farming budget, but not what would be done with it, increasing our food production without any sort of acknowledgement that we don’t grow all our own food because we actually like the food that we import, and subsidised agricultural apprenticeships.  Nothing wrong with this last one necessarily, but

Danny Beales – Labour

Returning to Uxbridge & South Ruislip once more and again hoping to be your next MP is Danny Beales.  Beales stood in the by-election last year, which I have already said was one of the biggest open goals for Labour in history, given the previous MP had resigned in disgrace, the Conservative candidate – Steve Tuckwell – was monumentally unsuited to the role and lying repeatedly about what he would do as MP, and the Conservatives were at a historically low level of support.  Nevertheless, he contrived to lose the ballot marginally. I would argue that skipping most of the hustings events probably didn’t do him any favours, as that showed a contempt for the electorate that really didn’t sit well with people.  Nor did starting out pro-ULEZ in full support of Sadiq Khan then changing to anti-ULEZ when Tuckwell weaponised ULEZ as a campaigning tool.  Generally I thought he was a very good speaker and would have been a good statesman, but his political stances were clearly poorly thought out and he simply wasn’t committed to the electoral process. Will definitely be interesting to see whether this changes in the General Election campaign. It is worth mentioning that Beales has been very unfairly lambasted by the Tories as “not local” (as have I, incidentally, which is absurd as I live about 3 minutes from the constituency border).  To my mind this is not a fair criticism.  Beales was born and raised in Hillingdon, and his work has taken him across London to Camden, but he is clearly still a local to the area.  This is clearly a desperate ploy by the Tories to denigrate other candidates in the area purely based on their post code rather than a) whether they know and love Hillingdon and b) whether they would do a good job for the area.  It is also worth remembering that their former MP, Boris Johnson, famously spent almost no time in Uxbridge to the point where it was joked that he didn’t even know where Uxbridge was. Labour’s Policies It is worth remembering that Beales is a Labour candidate.  That means that he is inextricably linked to the Labour leadership.  That means that  a vote for him is a vote to: Keep most things exactly as they are. Labour has been very clear that they are not offering any  radical changes to anything and will keep most of what the Tories have brought in, including the restrictions on the rights to protest and strike, both of which are fundamental to a society which values the people who make up the country. Retain the existing First Past The Post election system which guarantees that most votes are wasted and does not allow true representation in  Parliament. Continue demonising the people who most need the benefits system, e.g. disabled individuals. Leave the tax system largely unchanged, allowing the ultra wealthy to continue paying a tiny fraction of what the average family pays as a marginal rate. Allow continued exploitation of the UK’s oil and gas reserves despite very clear evidence that renewable energy is cheaper. There are plenty of other complaints about the Labour Party, but my summary of them is that they have very deliberately set themselves up as a caretaker government while the Tories are out of power.  They are not bringing anything radical or even necessary to the table, but instead are fishing for right-wing votes that would normally go to the Conservatives. Frankly if you want change, Labour is not the party for you.  If you look at the chaos and suffering of the last 14 years and think “more of that, please” then maybe, though honestly I would argue that you are probably better suited to the Conservatives or even Reform if that’s the case. In short, Labour are not what the UK needs. We will almost certainly get a Labour government next if we look at the polls, but if you want to vote for the good of the country and not just vote for the winning party, you will need to look elsewhere. Such as:

ReformUK’s Economic Ineptitude

The ReformUK party is not like every other political party. Originally the Brexit Party, the membership of this so-called political party is three individuals, namely Richard Tice, Tracy Knowles and Mehrtash A’Zami.  No-one else has voting rights for the structure, leadership or policies of the party.  As such, it is designed to be authoritarian in nature rather than democratic, which is the antithesis of my own beliefs and the Liberal Democrats in general.  However, this structure is – amazingly – not the worst or only major problem for the “party”. Economic Woes On 24 February 2024, the ReformUK party announced a list of tax reforms (pardon the pun).  This was broadly summarised as follows: Change the higher rate threshold from £50,000 to £70,000. Increase the personal allowance for income tax from £12,570 to £20,000. Set the inheritance tax allowance to £2 million (presumably this is per person, so the allowance would be £4 million for couples). Cut corporation tax to 15% (I saw this figure on Twitter rather than in the independent article, so this is less reliable than the others, but is certainly in keeping with their other promises). Add a 20% tax relief for healthcare fees and private school fees. This all seems very appealing if you have wealth and don’t rely on anything that is cut to fund this gift to the wealthy.  So what is being cut to fund this tax giveaway? Nothing. They have mentioned that they will abandon net zero policies and eliminate illegal migration.  The former of these is something of a red herring, because renewable energy right now is cheaper than fossil fuel power, so abandoning net zero actually costs money if we look at energy, the single largest contributor to our CO2 emission.  The latter is also a red herring because the total cost of migration is essentially negligible. As part of my Twitter ranting about this, someone posted an article telling me that illegal migration (as they put it) had cost some £36 billion since 2020. This sounds like a large figure until you look at the annual amount of £9 billion and compare it to, say, the annual budget for NHS England, some £163 billion. In short, even if the cost of “illegal” migrants could be completely eliminated with no additional costs for whatever scheme replaced the existing structure, they would not even be able to fund a single month of NHS England’s budget with the annual saving. In short, they have not proposed anything that would possibly offset the cost of massive tax cuts, and we saw what happened when someone last tried to announce uncosted tax cuts for the wealthy. This is worse. Much worse.

Steve Tuckwell – Conservative

In 2023, Boris Johnson was forced to resign in disgrace as MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip following the investigation into his repeated lies to Parliament over Partygate.  In the wake of that, a by-election was triggered in Uxbridge & South Ruislip, which ultimately resulted in Steve Tuckwell being returned as MP with a margin of only 500 or so votes (with a total cast for Tuckwell of just under 14,000).  So who is Steve Tuckwell, what did he run his campaign on, and what has he done so far?  This analysis will attempt to show that he is wholly unsuitable to be Uxbridge & South Ruislip’s MP, and why. This isn’t just going to be a political hit piece from an opponent, this is going to be a deep dive into Tuckwell’s political history and will include sources for any claims or comments that are relevant. Image from Wikipedia. Early Career There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about Steve Tuckwell’s career.  He was a manager for Royal Mail and worked for a vehicle leasing company.  Nothing that screams that he would be good or bad for the role of elected representative.  I have not heard of any skeletons coming from any aspect of his career, but neither have I heard anything particularly positive that makes it seem like he was suitable for a career in politics. Political Activity In 2018, Steve Tuckwell joined Hillingdon Council as a councillor, standing as a Conservative candidate.  As such, Tuckwell has been involved with the Council for five years at the time of writing, and as a senior person within the local party, it is fair to say that he had influence over most things that happened in Hillingdon.  So what has he achieved? Looking at the Hillingdon Council website, it is pretty unclear.  According to that, Tuckwell has only voted on 24 issues in that five-year period, so I think it is fair to say that his contributions were not prolific. Setting that aside for a moment, let’s consider what Hillingdon has achieved recently.  Luckily I put together a list of the increased costs and charges some time ago, during a time when Tuckwell was a councillor but not yet an MP.  These cost increases are indicative of a council in financial trouble, and since the council itself and the national government have both been Conservative for over a decade, there’s no-one else to blame. By-Election Campaign I was fortunate enough to enjoy a front-row seat to the Uxbridge by-election, as I was heavily involved in assisting my predecessor Blaise Baquiche with his campaign.  Unfortunately, we weren’t successful, but we did learn some lessons and stocked up some ammunition for the next campaign – this one. In short, Steve Tuckwell ran his campaign on three points, namely: That he was already an experienced councillor and that Hillingdon was doing well (it wasn’t). That he would cancel the ULEZ expansion in Hillingdon (he couldn’t). That he would reopen Uxbridge Police Station (he hasn’t). Many of his campaigning issues stem from the fact that he made promises he had no way of achieving.  MPs have no power over ULEZ, as that is a devolved power of the Greater London Assembly.  His Conservative mayoral candidate colleague, Susan Hall, could probably have explained that to him, assuming she was able to recover from her entirely fictitious pickpocketing incident.  I imagine I will be covering Susan Hall more in future blog posts, but suffice it to say, she’s ludicrously unqualified for any position of responsibility, let alone Mayor of a city the size of London. Likewise the status of Uxbridge police station is under the purview of the London Metropolitan Police, which itself is under the auspices of the Mayor. As such, Tuckwell’s entire campaign was based on lies.  He has no more power as an MP to stop ULEZ expansions or to reopen Uxbridge police station than he had as a normal person.  Arguably he actually had more power as just a councillor than an average MP would have.  He had no business standing as an MP candidate if he knew that his promises were not just unlikely but outright impossible to achieve.  He might as well have promised all voters in Uxbridge £1 million for all the realism it offered.  It might sound nice to think about receiving such a largess, but it’s simply not going to happen. It’s fair to say that this on its own could be considered biased reporting about a political opponent, and it is much harder to attack someone’s campaign pledges during their campaign itself.  So let’s look at what he has actually done since getting elected. Parliamentary Record Once someone gets into Parliament, their voting record becomes a matter of public interest.  Hansard reports on everything that a member says in the debate chamber and every vote they participate in, including their actual stance on the matter.  There are many aggregation tools which summarise this voting record, but the one I have used is Public Whip. The first noteworthy statistic is the number of rebellions.  This indicates the number of times an MP has disagreed with what their party has decided.  That figure?  Zero.  Not once in (at the time of writing) 79 votes.  That means that he has voted for: Rwanda to be declared a safe nation in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Restrictions on the actions of trade unions, removing worker rights. Hiding the school safety report from public access, meaning parents around the country had no information on whether their children were attending a deathtrap. Criminalising nitrous oxide at a time when the prisons are over capacity. Voting against the expansion of the Electoral Commission’s role in combating electoral fraud. A 4% reduction in capital gains tax for landlords. Reducing the asylum and immigration budget without a credible plan for saving money. In short, he has voted exactly as Rishi Sunak tells him every single time.  He has not voted in the interests of the