Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Andy Slaughter urges unity over H&F Hospitals

Yesterday a small gathering took place outside Hammersmith Hospital on Du Cane Road in Shepherd's Bush. Organised by our council it was intended to demonstrate their committment to saving both of the hospitals slated for downsizing by the NHS. It came after some of us pointed out that the council only really seemed to be bothered about the threat facing Charing Cross Hospital in Fulham, with a senior councillor telling me that he wasn't convinced by the case for the hospital in Shepherd's Bush.

So welcome that they decided to do this. But less welcome was the fact that when our MP turned up to support the protest, our councillors - and their press officers - started behaving like schoolboys.

Held at 1.30pm on a Monday the protest was never going to attract a great deal of people, the purpose was mainly a photo-call, the images of which could then be used on the council website and elsewhere as part of the campaign. But our MP is Labour and our council Conservative, of course, and the council press officers were clearly under orders not to let a Labour MP in the photos.

So they stood in front of him every time the cameras came out. Genius!

There is a real danger that these two political groups end up dividing the opposition to the plans, thus weakening the campaign, and end up letting the hospitals be closed by default. There are already competing petitions - run by the council and the MP, and there are set to be competing websites and all the other paraphernalia associated with campaigns. It is nuts.

The council's campaign
The council's campaign seems to be one aimed at gaining media attention and run centrally by the press office from the town hall while Mr Slaughter's campaign appears to be residents-focused judging by the first meeting of the campaign committee I attended last week, which was well attended by residents, local business owners and so on.

Both of those strategies would actually work quite well together if they were combined - the council has a very well resourced press office, while for his part Mr Slaughter clearly has significant convening power in the local area. He also, of course, sits in Parliament and this wednesday will be leading a debate on the closures at which a Department of Health Minister will have to try and defend them.

Wouldn't it be a great idea if they worked together?

Yesterday evening Mr Slaughter sent the letter below to new council leader Nick Botterill, on that subject, asking for a meeting so that they can agree to work together, at least on this. I hope Mr Botterill can respond positively and that, on this issue at least, the ferrets-in-a-sack syndrome can be put to one side. The fate of our hospitals is way more important.

Here's Mr Slaughter's letter:

9th July 2012

Dear Nick,

I hope we can meet very soon to discuss ways of campaigning in tandem to oppose the closure of Hammersmith and Fulham’s A&Es and the downgrading of its hospitals.

The issues facing the borough and our constituents are literally life-changing and they are looking to their political representatives to give them a unified voice against changes nobody wants.

Several hundred of my constituents have formed themselves into the group “ Save Hammersmith and Fulham Hospitals”, which they asked me to chair last week, while making it clear that they wanted the campaign to reflect the whole spectrum of opinion across , and beyond, political parties.

In this spirit, we agreed the following principles are important:

  • We need a single, unified campaign. With two separately identified campaigns, the danger exists that one might become a poor relation. 
  • Each element in the fight needs to cooperate fully and openly with other campaigners. 
  • We want the council to join us in lobbying the government as well as the NHS locally.
I have to express my concerns about whether the council’s heart is in the right place over this, following this afternoon’s performance by council press officers, which you witnessed. But I am hoping that this does not represent the manner in which the council intends to approach its relationship with our campaign over the coming months. I remain eager to work with all other groups, including the council, to achieve our joint aim. I believe we are all seeking the best outcome for the people we represent and who look to us for help. I genuinely do hope we can work together to achieve the outcome that the people of Hammersmith and Fulham deserve.

Kind regards,



  1. Cooperation would also have the desirable effect of elevating residents' opinions of politicians on both sides of the party track.

  2. But of course Slaughter has to chair it. How slimey can that guy get? If it was genuinely non partisan it would be chaired by someone without the political axe to grind.

  3. "How slimey can that guy get?"

    You tell us, anon?

  4. I lieft it as rhetorical because I think it's obvious. The guy is extremely slimey and his actions frequently demonstrate it. He pretends he's chairing the group out of selfless apolitical concern, but you can bet he'll be scoring every political point he can - as the self-righteous tone of his above letter makes abundantly clear. The guy is a self-serving hypocrite.

  5. He seems to engage with local residents far more than the Council does. Witness the squirming and head-in-the-sand attitude over their defeat by the Goldhawk Road traders, or the majority of West Ken & Gibb's Green residents rejecting the demolition of their homes.

    Besides, the scoring of cheap political points is not the exclusive preserve of Mr Slaughter, is it now?

  6. Whether self serving or not - surely we elect MPs and Councillors to fight for matters close to our hearts? This is a vital matter affecting all constituents and it does need everybody to come together on this. It is like one person complaining individually or several - it is always the majority that are listened to.