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

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:

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

Labour Party Problems

Our current system is broken, in that it is essentially designed to make votes a choice between two major parties in charge of the country. In fact, this goes so far as to name the leader of the Labour party “the leader of the Opposition” – the assumption is that the Government and the Opposition are basically going to swap control of the country periodically, with no real prospect of third parties ever getting into power. In my mind, this system needs a major reform, but in the interim many people might say that the Labour party is better than the Conservatives. In one sense I agree, in another I wholly disagree. In this article I will talk about some of the problems with the Labour Party (ignoring the claims of antisemitism and focusing solely on their policies). Brexit It is pretty clear at this point that Brexit was a mistake. We have not gained any economic benefit, nor are we expected to for decades, if at all. We have not gained any sovereignty that we didn’t already have. We have not freed up £350m a week for the NHS. In short, all the benefits of Brexit were lies touted by the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg. Our missing EU Star It is vital to improve our relationship with the EU to secure our economic future and allow us to have influence over one of the largest political blocs in the world. In likelihood, this means undoing the disaster that was the 2016 referendum, whether that needs another referendum or not. I believe it is also necessary to hold the originator of these lies to account, as a lie to influence a referendum is tantamount to election-tampering. I strongly argue that the insistence on making Brexit work is one of the major Labour Party problems, as it is a wholly unachievable goal based largely on the wishful thinking of the rabid fringes of the Tory party and backed up by lies. Electoral Reform A ballot box As I have previously written, a vote for Labour while they do not support a change to Proportional Representation is a deferred vote for the Conservatives. Changing the way that votes are run to a more proportional system will almost guarantee that no party ever gets to form a majority government again, and unfortunately Labour’s leadership have shown themselves unwilling to take this step. For this reason, I do not believe that they are working in the interests of the country, but instead are focusing on short-term gains for individuals at the top of the party. In short, a major change to the way that elections are run is vital if we want to ensure that the Conservatives never get to do what they have done to the country again. Voter ID Coupled with the refusal to get behind electoral reform, Labour has aided the Tories in restricting the access to votes that we mostly take for granted by abstaining in the Lords on the fatal motion introduced by the Liberal Democrats to forestall the introduction of ID requirements that will likely restrict minority groups disproportionately. Ultimately it was extremely disappointing to see Labour peers refusing to do the right thing here. A UK Driving Licence, which will be accepted as ID if the current Bill goes into law. Elected Second House The Houses of Parliament I believe Kier Starmer is right to state that abolishing the House of Lords as it currently stands is a good idea, but replacing it with an elected second chamber seems pointless, as we already have one elected chamber which should represent the whole of the UK. Instead, I believe it is vital to change the mandate of the second house to one of an advisory role filled with genuine experts in their field and tasked with reviewing the actions of the main House and publishing their findings. Having two Houses with separate roles makes sense. Having two that are essentially elected in the same way seems pointless. If you are interested in my views on the aristocracy as a whole, I have written a piece on that. Strikes Sadly strikes have become a necessity for many workers to negotiate even reasonable terms. Nurses, for example. Labour have said many of the right things, but their insistence that their politicians do not join the picket lines is appalling. The Labour party should be completely on the side of workers, and while this may be a political game to win more votes from the Tories, it is purely a consequence of our broken electoral system, which the Labour leadership also oppose reforming. Summary I think the most powerful point I can make here is that a vote for the Labour Party and all their problems is merely deferring the time until the Conservatives get into power again. I see a lot of #GTTO hashtags these days, but if the goal is to get them out for good, a vote for Labour now won’t do it. Instead I would argue that the Liberal Democrats make the most persuasive case, in that we are open to the same fairness that Labour espouse, but we accept that the system needs to be changed to make the UK a better, fairer and more welcoming place.