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

My First Hustings

OK, a slightly misleading title in that this wasn’t my first hustings as a candidate nor was it technically my first hustings as a spectator.  In my defence, the last one I attended was for my student union presidency in about 2003, so it’s fair to say that it has been a while.  It’s also fair to say that this did not disappoint. You can see the whole proceedings here (as embedding has been disabled, you have to click on the link). Elephant in the Room This hustings events got off to an interesting start, when noted conspiracy theorist, Piers Corbyn, loudly asked why only four candidates were on stage of the seventeen in total.  The (rather sensible) answer was that having all candidates on stage would be bedlam, while only having the parties with the four largest predicted vote shares made a sensible compromise between information and time commitment. Sadly this was not the end of the saga, as Corbyn and his acolytes insisted on interrupting loudly and regularly, to the point where the moderator had to say that “this isn’t going to work” and he was threatened with removal if he didn’t let the candidates speak freely. The culmination of this abysmal behaviour was a woman who stood up to screech all sorts of conspiracy theories about vaccines, Kier Starmer and his supposed paedophile ring, chem trails, 5G, etc.  Frankly this was an unwelcome addition to an event with limited time, so I and others were very happy to see her ejected by security. After this, Piers Corbyn tried to rabble-rouse further during the candidate Q&A, but everyone was by then completely fed up of his group’s antics and rightly ignored him. Now on to my thoughts on the actual candidates (Piers Corbyn is listed as a candidate, but his behaviour really solidifies the view in my mind that he is a joke candidate, nothing more). Steve Tuckwell My impression of Steve Tuckwell was one of a defeated person trying to make the most of the situation he finds himself in.  He was unable to answer the simple question of “Is Boris Johnson a Liar?” with a simple straight answer, and he seemed desperate to conflate this by-election with ULEZ, something over which the local MP has no direct power, only some influence (ULEZ is the purview of the Greater London Assembly and the Mayor of London, not local councils or MPs).  More to the point, three of the four candidates on stage for this hustings were opposed to the current ULEZ plans, so I am at a loss as to who he thinks this would be a winning strategy against. Overall, Steve seemed like a nice guy, but one who has been conned into thinking that the Conservatives are the answer.  Unfortunately I think his party have put him into place purely to be a scapegoat, in that they know that the seat is lost to them due to Boris Johnson’s behaviour, and they know that whoever they put into the candidacy will bear the brunt of the ill-will that should rightly be directed at Johnson himself. In short, Tuckwell did not come across as a credible candidate with any real ideas beyond “keeping going with Conservative plans” (loosely paraphrased based on his responses to various questions – he didn’t actually state that this was his position). Sarah Green Sarah Green came across to me as very well informed and caring.  She generally gave very considered answers to questions put to her by the moderators or audience, and I genuinely got the impression from her that she cared not only about the science but also the people. My concern about Sarah Green is that her party is starting in a distant fourth place, securing only 2% of the vote in 2019.  Given my counterpart, Blaise Baquiche, is starting from over 6%, he is the most likely progressive candidate to actually win. Green spoke on the subject of HS2 a few times, including a very interesting figure that a mere 7 weeks of HS2’s budget in 2023 would be enough to close the funding gap for Hillingdon Hospital, sorely in need of renovation.  She also mentioned something that I was not previously aware of, namely that Hillingdon is the only London Borough that does not regularly supply data on air quality and water cleanliness to the central data amalgamators, which seems to be a huge oversight by the Council (on which Steve Tuckwell currently sits, incidentally). Danny Beales Of all the candidates, I thought Danny Beales had the most polished speaking skills and stage presence.  He held some fairly popular views on Heathrow’s third runway (opposed), ULEZ (opposed in its current form), and fixing Hillingdon hospital (for), but there was little said here that made him stand out from the other candidates. I did ask a question – I believe the final question of the hustings – on what democracy meant to the candidates and how their parties supported democracy in getting them to where they are.  This was a bit of a low blow, because I happen to know that Beales does not support Proportional Representation – the only form of election that actually results in true representative democracy – and was placed there by his party after they overruled the democratically elected candidate in Uxbridge & South Ruislip.  As such, Beales is only here because his party deliberately decided to ignore representative democracy, which in my view tarnishes any good he might otherwise want to do. Blaise Baquiche Cards on the table, I went to the hustings as a supporter of Blaise Baquiche.  Indeed, I was sitting in the front row with his brother and Jonathan Banks, the leader of our local Liberal Democrats.  Nevertheless, I was impressed by Blaise in terms of both public speaking skills and stage presence, and thought he did an excellent job of getting his points across. Certainly he managed to get a round of applause from the audience for