In the second of our three interviews with the candidates of the main political parties who want to be the Bush's next MP we come to the Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey. One of the most high profile candidates in the UK he is a co-founder of My Generation, a charity set up to address the social problems that affect young people and their families, including anti-social behaviour, drug use, crime, teen pregnancy, educational underachievement and unemployment.
Shaun graduated in computer aided technology from South Bank University. Previously, he worked as a security guard at Wembley and the Trocadero to put himself through university. He grew up in the north Kensington area with his mother, brother, and granddad.
A dedicated gymnast with the Childs Hill Gymnastic Club for over twenty years, he won many competitions both nationally and internationally. He was also a member of the army cadet force for ten years, where he met one of the major influences in his life, Captain (now Colonel) Connolly—the man who always challenged him to do better and believed in him.
In 2007 he was selected to fight the new Hammersmith Parliamentary Constituency, which includes Shepherd's Bush, for the Conservatives. The interview follows:
Why do you want to be the MP for Shepherd’s Bush?
I grew up in Shepherd’s Bush, the community has always been a part of me. A big part of why I want to represent Shepherd's Bush in Parliament is because I want to give something back to the community that has given me so much. As a borough, we have a lot to offer our city and our country, but I believe a lot could be done to improve the lives of people here.
I want Shepherd's Bush to be a place known for great job opportunities with attractive pay, mixed housing where residents are given a realistic chance to own their own homes and not just rent and a place where we can send our children outside without worrying about their safety or exploitation. It is time to break the cycles of state dependency that keep people poor, so that hard working people can thrive here.
I know these are big goals and ideas, but I think that's what politics should be about. We should be able to aspire to great things and work towards them. But this isn't a solo project. Any truly lasting positive changes that happen in Shepherds Bush will be done by the people of Shepherds Bush, not by any one person. I don't want to stand on the sidelines and complain about what's wrong. I want to get in the game and help fix the system.
What background knowledge and experience can you use on behalf of the Bush?
I've been a youth and community worker for over 20 years. The charity I co-founded and am still with, MyGeneration, serves youth and families from all over West London. I've also been active with a number of local residents’ associations. I believe I have an understanding of how people in a community interact with each other. I also understand how they interact with the different levels of government.
My experiences working on policing issues and as a fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies have also played a key role in shaping my political outlook. I've seen people can be betrayed by an overbearing and ultra intrusive government. The Times recently reported that 80% of people agree that Britain is broken. I agree, and much of this brokenness is a direct result of Labour forcing people into a position where they need to accept hand outs rather than providing them with the opportunity to provide for themselves.
What do you see as the key issues facing Shepherd’s Bush in the next 5 years and what will you do about them?
There's no doubt that housing is a major issue, but it's not quite as straight forward of an issue as some have suggested. My Labour opponent has said that I want to kick people who live in social housing out of their homes. In fact, Labour has been trying to sell this message for years, yet it’s never come true! These lies have been crafted in a desperate attempt to scare people into voting for him.
The Labour party has tried to present themselves as working class heros, working for the benefit of those who live on estates. What's interesting is that even though they have been in power for the past 13 years, Labour has failed to improve the living conditions of those on estates. How can they be the heros when they have failed to deliver on the promises they pledged in 1997?
I grew up in social housing and I still live in social housing. I don't need to be lectured to about the type of situations many of our social housing residents are finding themselves in - I've lived it, my opponent hasn't. I've seen the damage that substandard housing causes families and particularly young people.
Let me be clear that not every Shepherds Bush estate is run down. There are some that are great examples of what social housing should be, but we can't deny that some of them need urgent attention. Building's don't last forever, and to suggest that they can or that they should is simply denying the truth.
A small percentage of people living in social housing in the borough are living in conditions that a responsible government simply cannot allow. It is the role of responsible leaders to look at these homes and say, yes, we need to do something about this. Of course this is going to be complicated, we are talking about people's homes! But if it means that these people and their children will be provided with better places to live, then I'm willing to put up with my Labour opponents trying to use this issue to score cheap political points.
I often ask people who are opposed to my views on this what they would do if they were a MP. Would they, knowing that there are people who are trying to raise children in homes that are overcrowded or literally falling apart, choose to cowardly dodge or exploit the issue because they knew it would be very controversial? Or would they risk the political fallout if they knew it would raise the level of debate around the quality of our social housing and, at the same time, provided many people with better homes for their families? Our choices are action or inaction, there is no third option. I've chosen to act and I'm not going to apologise for it. I reject the idea that things always need to stay the same.
Another massive challenge we are facing is unemployment. 30% of children here are growing up in families on benefits and we must act fast to avoid dooming the next generation to despair and welfare dependency. Jobs, not welfare, will restore the local and national economy, combat crime and create stable households. We also need retraining schemes available for those who want to pursue a different career path.
Our schools in Shepherds Bush, like in the rest of the country, need to prepare young people for real life situations, not just the passing of exams. The next generation will need to be very enterprising to survive. Encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit will help break the cycle of dependency that currently has many people receiving more money from benefits than they would from working for a wage.
Our Conservative council's spending on 24/7 policing has greatly reduced local crime figures, but there's still more to be done. We need to address the causes of crime, not just treat the symptoms. I want to see the next Parliament reform the criminal justice system into what it was intended to be. The law needs to protect those who keep it, not those who break it.
There have been a number of very controversial planning decisions in Shepherd’s Bush and the local area recently, such as 282 Goldhawk Road and the ‘Goldhawk Block’. What are your views on those decisions and what do you think could be done differently to avoid a lot of unhappy local people?
Although the area desperately needs new housing, I'll agree that there has been a lack of dialogue between the council and local residents over this development. I have spoken with resident’s associations and raised their concerns with the council. I've been assured that the council will approach people in the area to discuss what concessions may be made as a result of this development. I'm keeping my eye on this and I'm more than happy to talk to anyone with concerns.
What are your views on the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Council’s campaign against locating the entry to the tunnel within the Borough?
Let me make one thing clear. No one, including me, wants raw sewage running into the Thames. On an issue as important as this, we need to know all of the available options.
When the Channel Tunnel was built, engineers looked at a number of routes with a number of entry and exit points. In the end, they went with the one that made the most sense after all of the options have been thoroughly explored. What makes me uncomfortable about the Tideway Tunnel is that Thames Water seems to have had their mind made up about which option they wanted before they even looked at the other options. We need clarity on why they feel having the entry to the tunnel in Shepherds Bush is the right way forward. So far they have failed to convince. Also, the current scheme doesn't even address the problem of flood protection - a very real problem in our borough.
Here's what really gets me. Thames Water, a company posting huge annual profits, has not supplied any funding for their scheme and have failed to donate their own land to the tunnel. Instead they are calling for a public park to be used. Taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the entire bill in addition to giving up their own green space. No matter where the tunnel is build, we need to know that Thames Water are committed to helping pay for it and to using land they own.
This is way to big and expensive of a project to be rushed into. All viable options need to be thoroughly explored and I want to see proper, private flood protection addressed through this project, which is exactly what the current scheme fails to offer.
So again, I'm not convinced all of the options have been thoroughly considered. It's understandable that our community should have to carry our share of the inconvenience that would come with this type of project, it seems as though we are being asked to carry the entire load.
A number of local businesses have closed in the Bush recently, including a local pub on Askew Road this week. What would you do as a local and national figure to regenerate the local economy?
Labour has tried to convince us that we have been the victims of a worldwide recession, but the truth is that Labour failed to take steps to protect us in case things took a turn for the worse. When they did, Labour's decisions meant that Britain was among the worst placed for recovery out of the G20 countries. We were the first country into the recession and the last out, and we still aren't out risk of having a double-dip recession.
I sometimes wonder whether, as a nation, we truly understand the level of debt we are dealing with here. Today, with each child born with the equivalent of £30,000 of government debt hanging over them, we are talking about a debt level that could fundamentally impact the standard of living of millions of people in Britain. For the sake of the future of our nation, we absolutely must tackle our national debt.
Nationwide reform is needed to bring our economy out of stagnation, but locally, we must play to our strengths. Shepherds Bush has shown incredible levels of entrepreneurial spirit in the past and I firmly believe that it is this spirit that will help us lead the way in the recovery. With an average age of just 32 years old, our local workforce is growing rapidly, so I see brilliant opportunities for small local businesses to grow and provide more jobs. Supporting local businesses is vital to helping the growing number of underemployed and I am committed to doing just that.
We must provide training programs to people of all ages and ensure that people on benefits won’t think that working will mean losing money. A stronger civil society based around markets, community centers and religious organisations will make this constituency an even more attractive place for young people, old people and families to settle. We believe in rewarding hard work. A Conservative government will work locally to reward the innovative creation of businesses and fight unemployment.
Do you think there is enough affordable housing in Shepherd’s Bush at the moment, and what would you do on this issue if you were elected?
I've already given my take on social housing in the answer above, but I'll stress again that this is an extremely important issue for me.
No, there isn't enough affordable housing in Shepherds Bush. I want to see more of our residents being given an opportunity to own their own homes. We need an economy that can provide fair mortgages to first time buyers and a job sector that pays fair wages that help ensure home owners can meet their financial commitments. It should be said that not everyone wants or needs to own their own home. Still, for those who do want it, home ownership needs to be a realistic option.
Ask anyone living in social housing what the biggest challenge was before they moved in and they will tell you that it was the waiting list. If Labour was really serious about helping improve the housing situation here in Shepherds Bush and in other areas around the country, they would have worked to reduce or eliminate the waiting list. Unfortunately they haven't. There are simply not enough homes available and waiting lists are still a major road block for those wanting to own their own homes. We need to address this. Home ownership needs to be accessible for those who want it. I fully plan to fight for reduced waiting lists and more affordable housing so more Shepherds Bush residents can own their own homes.
Do you want to say anything else to readers?
This election comes down to our nation having five more years of the same, or a fresh start. In trying to distance himself from his disgraces colleagues, my Labour opponent would like you to think he is a different breed of politician. Unfortunately for him the evidence suggests otherwise:
He claims to have some of the cleanest expenses in Parliament, but he claimed £90 for a pen nib and tried to justify it by saying it was 'office equipment.' If you want to see the evidence for yourself, click here and scroll to page 85. You can also click here to see how at least one newspaper took him to task for it.
On one evening in March 2008, he voted in the House of Commons at 7:15pm to close local post offices and then took a taxi to Hammersmith Town Hall a few minutes later and spoke at a meeting saying he opposed the local post office closures! Understandably, the gathered crowd responded with booing. Click here to read more.
On 28 October last year, he appeared on LBC radio and complained about 'old Etonians' in the Conservative party, failing to mention that he had a private school upbringing at Latymer. You can listen to the show here. He knows that many Labour voters will be turned off by voting for a Labour politician who had a private school upbringing, so he chooses to hide it. His website makes no mention of Latymer and only says he was 'educated in local schools.'
My opponents class war tactics, along with similar attempts by others in his party, have been completely divisive. They do nothing to bring our country together. Like my opponent, a number of Labour's own cabinet attended private schools, yet they insist on trying to use the private school education of some in the Tory party as a point to attack them on. But here's the important thing - it doesn't even matter where someone went to school. What matters is what they can offer our country moving forward, not looking behind. So let me be clear that I am not and will not criticise my opponent because he went to Latymer. I am critical because of his hypocrisy in choosing not to admit his own private school upbringing while attacking others for theirs.
If there has been any message from the taxpayers to our members of Parliament over the past year it has been this - we deserve better. We need MPs who are admired for their leadership, not despised for the hypocrisy. How can we expect our MPs to fix our broken society when so many of them can't even be trusted with smaller responsibilities?
Even with so much disappointment and frustration with Labour, my campaign team and I are not taking anything for granted. The race in Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush is going to be very tight. We are putting in long hours speaking with people in their homes and on the street, canvassing, handing out information, making phone calls, sending emails, recording videos, Facebooking, Tweeting and doing everything possible to show that we want change. I hope you do too. Your vote can help bring it.
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me by telephone on 020 7385 1002 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit our campaign website at www.shaunbailey.co.uk
Conservative Candidate for Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush