Highlights for me were:
- Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey, after having been surrounded by angry residents at the end of the debate, giving a clear pledge to “fight the council” if residents were threatened with eviction in order that the Council could redevelop the area but wanted to stay in their homes.
- A small shopkeeper saying that there was a lot of “talk” about the value of small businesses to Hammersmith & Fulham, but very little real help on the ground
- All candidates professing their love for the NHS and lack of private healthcare but disagreeing over the future of Charing Cross Hospital
- And of course the melee created by the crowd of international media shuffling around the cavernous hall. TV crews hailing from Japan and Germany rubbed along with hacks from the national and local press
This prompted Labour's Andy Slaughter to respond by angrily denouncing the Council’s “gerrymandering” and its activities which were “destroying decent communities”. He spoke about what he described as the Council’s appalling track record of cutting out local residents from major decisions about their communities and challenged those in the audience who had clapped Shaun Bailey to consider whether or not they would want a vote on their futures if they too found that the Council wanted to redevelop their homes. This was the basic demand of residents, and it was something he would support.
Lib Dem Merlene Emerson repudiated Shaun Bailey’s argument that there had been scaremongering. The threat from the Council was real, she said, and residents deserved genuine consultation. Green Rollo Miles agreed that housing was a critical local issue and argued that the sheer expense of living in London made life difficult for some, and the last thing they needed were threats to their homes.
On small businesses all candidates agreed that they were both the lifeblood of our local economy and that there was much to be done to alleviate the pressures on them. All spoke of the need to reduce red tape and support thriving local business communities, while Merlene Emerson made a pitch for “Saint” Vince Cable who had, she said, predicted everything about the recession before it happened! Interestingly the Chair returned to the questioner, who herself was a small family business owner, to ask what she thought – she had been distinctly underwhelmed.
On the NHS all of the candidates professed their love for the institution, with Rollo Miles declaring that having lived abroad he didn’t think that the British people realised quite how lucky they were to have access to healthcare free at the point of use. Andy Slaughter, referring to past Conservative claims that Charing Cross Hospital was at risk of closure which was denied by the NHS and the Government, warned the audience not “to let anyone tell you” that there was a risk to the hospital. We were, he said, lucky to have one of the top performing hospitals in our area. Shaun Bailey also paid tribute to the hospital but said that the NHS had been considering major cuts to services in the capital, and that therefore there were real fears about whether the hospital would suffer as a result.
Will the debate swing the result? Probably not. Did most of the journalists, some of whom had gone out of their way to come along, get the fireworks that they wanted? No. But it was worth having and I’m glad I went. I hope this account is helpful to you too.
Whatever the result Shepherd’s Bush is going to change – so please for goodness sake use your vote and have your say.
I'll be posting film clips of each of the candidates closing pitches for your votes on here in the next day or so - keep checking back to see what they had to say