The almost 4,000 emails I have received in the last month from constituents calling for an end to the violence in Israel and Palestine is the biggest mailbag I have ever received on a single subject over such a short period. They are not selective as to where in the constituency they come from, the religion, age, class, ethnicity or politics of the sender. They are simply an expression of humanity, a wish for peace and above all for the killing and maiming of children and civilians to stop.
Nothing can excuse the calculated atrocities of Hamas on 7 October and its barbarism towards the residents of peaceful communities in Israel, including many of the very old and very young. Some 1,200 people were murdered for their faith, their ethnicity and their nationality, and over 200 abducted.
This has been followed in the six weeks since by the equally barbaric unleashing of war on an industrial scale on Palestinian civilians. Over 12,000 have been brutally killed, more than half of those women and children, with thousands more dying a slow death in the rubble of their homes.
No one has contacted me to say that Israel is wrong to remove the threat from Hamas or to deny Israeli citizens the security we take for granted. What they do say is that it is wrong to tackle acts of terrorism by disproportionately or indiscriminately killing and injuring civilians. And that Palestinians also have the right to peace, security and to live in their own independent state, free from occupation.
Last week the House of Commons expressed its view by voting on two amendments to the King’s Speech. The first, proposed by Labour, not only called for food, water, medicine and fuel to be allowed into Gaza in sufficient quantities and for the fighting to stop to allow this, but that this be a first step in releasing the hostages and making the cessation of fighting permanent. Labour also called for international law to apply to all sides, for war crimes to be punished and for an end to settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
I voted for this and was appalled that the Government did not. I also voted for a separate amendment that called for an immediate ceasefire by all sides. Of course, Hamas must stop firing rockets and release the hostages held, but it is illegal and immoral to wage war on civilians in the way the Israeli military currently is. The displacement of millions of people, the destruction of their homes and property, the murder of non-combatants, many of them children, is not according to the rules of war, and democracies and their allies should be held to the highest standards.
I have raised the conflict several times in the Commons, raising the plight of UK citizens living in Hammersmith who were trapped in Gaza until they escaped last week, as well as breaches of international law and civilian casualties.
I have visited Israel and Palestine several times and Gaza twice. I saw the horrific effect of bombing and a ground invasion up close immediately after Operation Cast Lead. I hope that the current catastrophe can lead to the international community finally expressing its will to create a viable Palestinian state that could live in peace with Israel, but for the present we must have an end to the murder of defenceless people and the relief of terrible suffering.
Carry on again, doctor
Fresh developments in the Charing Cross saga, but not the ones we want. When, in 2019, after seven years of local campaigning, Charing Cross was saved from demolition, it went into Boris Johnson’s ‘40 new hospitals’ programme. There weren’t 40 and they weren’t new, but it did mean CXH was in line for £1 billion for its necessary refurb, to be completed by 2030.
But earlier this year that funding was withdrawn or diverted into other schemes including the RAAC hospitals (those with the collapsing concrete roofs). This is grossly unfair. CXH, Hammersmith and St Mary’s, Paddington have the biggest maintenance backlog of any in England. Many schools, including some in H&F, also have RAAC construction, but I have been assured repairs to those will be additional to existing schemes. So why not hospitals?
This is the sort of issue all local politicians should work together on, but just as with the demolition plans we defeated, local Conservatives have chosen not to advocate for our hospitals. Instead they make false claims. Last month, under the pretence of a routine visit to Charing Cross, the then health secretary and Tory Party chairman made a promotional video from inside the hospital claiming it ‘had a great future under the Conservatives’.
This breaks almost every rule of government by using hospitals and public money to promote a political party. I have asked the NHS and the Department of Health to investigate, but the real scandal here is that rather than get on with fixing the health service they have broken – and all our public services – what Sunak’s government does is just for show.
Putting on a show
Since Boris Johnson became PM, government in the UK has been mainly performative, with little attention to detail, to action or to reversing decline. It has been a long descent into playacting in which Suella Braverman was only the latest, though one of the most toxic, performer. She is gone to be replaced by David Cameron, a reminder of a different political age. Different but also differently bad. It was the Cameron and Osborne years (in partnership with the Lib Dems) which gave us austerity, which reduced our hospitals, schools, courts and economy to the hollowed-out shells they are today.
We need better transport links, more affordable homes, working utilities. Instead, we get culture wars, manufactured disputes and unfair criticism of those who are trying to keep the show on the road. Hopefully there will be a change of government next year. The sooner the better.
ECDC, HS2 and SBM
Last week the Earl’s Court Development Corporation published its Masterplan for 40 acres of prime land – the demolished exhibition centres and the Transport for London Lillie Bridge Depot. You can comment on the plans HERE. Despite its name, most of the site is in H&F. It will be one of the biggest building projects in London, taking 20 years to complete if approved next year.
Issues include sustainability and open space (where progress has been made) and building heights and number of affordable homes (where more progress is needed). But once again we are hamstrung by past decisions. We should never have lost the Earl’s Court Exhibition Centres, a significant part of the UK’s inadequate exhibition space. The original scheme also proposed the demolition of 750 council homes and displacement of 2,000 people – that was stopped by Labour regaining the council, but it meant a decade in limbo for residents in West Ken.
To hear Tory politicians feigning concern over developments they gave the green light to is, shall we say, annoying.
The handling of HS2 is a national scandal. It now looks like the line will only run from Birmingham to Old Oak (unless private investors pay for it to continue to Euston). This has major implications for H&F. Will the shrunken railway be such an attraction to developers in the Old Oak area? Will we get not only the homes and jobs but infrastructure and local transport that the original scheme promised? And if the line stops at Old Oak how will passengers disperse or transfer? There is currently no proposed access from the east (ie most of London) save for a cycle route along the Grand Union Canal which is currently planned to have a building blocking its way. I ask questions all the time of the transport minister, HS2 and development corporation but rarely get a convincing reply. Increasingly I think because there isn’t one.
Next month the latest scheme for improving Shepherds Bush Market is seeking planning consent. This is nothing like the size of the Earl’s Court or HS2 schemes, but it is an important historical part of west London. I’ve been fighting bad redevelopment schemes here for more than a decade, ever since Boris Johnson, as Mayor of London, sold the century-old TfL-owned Market to a private developer. It took a number of court cases, a public inquiry and fending off Tory politicians at local, and national level to save the Market.
The latest scheme will do that, but means substantial development elsewhere on the site and possibly in the long run changing the character of the Market. It’s a gamble either way, but the Market needs investment.
Thames Water – a busted flush
Two weekends ago tens of thousands of people in W12 had little or no water. I woke up to dry taps on Saturday morning and didn’t get full supply restored until Monday. Accidents happen, but they happen to Thames because it has preferred to pay dividends to its shareholders than keep its pipes in good repair (this was a 24 inch pipe bursting in the Uxbridge Road). Then to add insult to injury their communications with affected customers are abysmal. I spent most of the weekend on the phone or emailing them and relaying what information I could get on social media.
This is the same firm that has not put in place remedial works from the sewer flooding two summers ago. I am pursuing both issues with them and expecting reports and meetings before Christmas but it is like getting water from a dry well.
ASB covers a wide range of acts from the annoying to the violent and dangerous. My inbox tells me it is on the rise across the borough. One reason for this is the shortage not only of neighbourhood police but of mental health and substance abuse services, after years of cuts by the Tories. In H&F the council has tried to step into the breach with its Law Enforcement Team and ASB Unit. This will never cover all the services that are missing but it is a useful addition to local policing. This is how to contact them.
Anti-Social Behaviour Unit;
The ASB Unit manage cases against the person. A service of ten officers work across the borough predominantly to address ASB in social housing but do address non-social housing concerns. The ASB team work Monday to Friday, 08;00-18;00 and can be contacted via the ASBU Mailbox – ASBUMailbox@lbhf.gov.uk – your query will be reviewed, triaged and you will be contacted within three working days of making contact. The team’s webpage can be found here.
The Law Enforcement Team (LET);
The LET is the council’s 24/7 enforcement service. The LET, a team of 72 officers, address environmental crime and ASB providing visible presence and deterrent in all of our estates, parks and across the public realm. Where ASB is occurring the LET will enforce directly or pass details on to the ASB Team or Police for further action. To contact the LET you can call 20 8753 1100 and select option 3 or email via LET.HF@lbhf.gov.uk. Their webpage also explains what the team does.
Any situation of ASB that requires immediate response or where there is threat to safety must be called to Police via 999.
Constituency round up
- Hammersmith Bridge. While the funded works on the Bridge (stabilising it for foot, cycle and river traffic and planning for the major works) continue, the prospect of getting either adequate funding from the Department for Transport or their permission to use a toll scheme is as remote as ever. This became clear with the decision to abandon HS2 and put an alleged £36 billion into local transport schemes including road schemes in the south-east. I wrote to ask for funding from this pot but got a dusty answer. Last week we debated the Bridge again in the Commons with much the same result.
- TfL is still cash-strapped but does want to fund the new generation of Piccadilly Line trains, not surprisingly as the current batch are approaching 50 years old. Again it depends on Government approvals, but if TfL get the go ahead they should be in service from 2025 onwards (Central Line trains are also getting a full makeover). Hopefully the improved service will allow more stopping at Turnham Green. I have been involved in campaigning for this since I was MP for Ealing Acton & Shepherds Bush in 2005 – perhaps there is finally light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime I support the call for Piccadilly Line trains to stop when the District Line is subject to works.
- The US companies that muscled in on GP practices in H&F have limped away. Both Babylon (GP at Hand) and Centene (Operose) are selling up having failed to milk the NHS. Sadly, they are simply selling on to other private providers, but the lesson that the NHS is not a cash cow for foreign investors may have been learned.
- Who says we can’t do big engineering projects (more or less) on time and on budget? I opened the latest section of the Thames Tunnel at Hammersmith pumping station recently and it is an impressive project which should clean up the river when it opens fully next spring.
- Margravine Cemetery is one of the borough’s great open spaces, thanks in large part to the work of the Friends of Margravine Cemetery, whose AGM I attended last week. Inspired by them, Fulham Cemetery is getting its own friends group and is looking for volunteers. They sent me this message. ‘Fulham Cemetery is one of the most beautiful green spaces in southwest London, a calm urban oasis, with a rich history. Many local residents are interested in helping to care for its monuments, trees, and wildlife, but there is currently no way for them to coordinate their efforts. Inspired by the Friends of Margravine Cemetery, we would like to set up the Fulham Cemetery Friends to fill this gap. There is an immediate need: this winter the Council plans to plant 36 new trees in the cemetery. Young trees require regular watering during the summer, so there will be an urgent need for a volunteer group to keep the new trees watered next year. And there is a lot more we could do, such as organising bird and tree walks, local history walks, and coordinating with the council on maintenance and planting.’ Interested residents can sign up at the website: www.fulhamcemeteryfriends.org.uk
- I’ve been doing my usual eclectic round of engagements in the past few weeks including: the opening of L’Oreal’s new HQ in White City (where I got stuck in a lift with the French Ambassador for an hour); Polish Independence Day Celebrations at POSK; The Remembrance Service at Shepherds Bush Green; the funeral of Ron Browne a wonderful councillor for Shepherds Bush, Mayor and friend for more than 30 years; the opening of H&F Mencap’s new centre at Addison School; Louanne and Chris Tranchell’s Diamond Do – not only marking 60 years of marriage but of community action.
- Age UK are hosting their Carol Concert on Wednesday 13 December. It will take place Holy Trinity Church (W6 7BL). Doors open at 6.30pm and the Carol Concert will start at 7pm. All proceeds will go towards the aid of older people in Hammersmith and Fulham. Tickets can be purchased here and cost £25 for the concert and reception, or £15 for just the concert.
- On 2 December, the Addison Singers Oratorio Choir are performing Haydn’s The Creation at St Peter’s Church Southfield Road. Further information can be found here and tickets can be bought online.
- Local charity, The Upper Room has launched an appeal for ‘Braverman Bags’, in reference to the former Home Secretary’s comments on homelessness. Each back contains a waterproof sleeping bag, hat, gloves, food ration and hand warmer and costs £50, although feel free to donate whatever you can afford.
- The Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre is holding its annual Christmas Market on 2 December, starting at 11:15am. Martin Clunes will be playing several very important roles at the event and there will be hot food and drinks, Christmas stalls and a visit from Father Christmas. Full details here.
- Barons Court resident Martin Bell is taking on the Everest in the Alps ski challenge next year to raise money for research into brain cancer. His son, Alex, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour called Diffuse Leptomeningeal Glioneuronal Tumours (DLGNT) in October 2021. Alex’s mother, Katie Bernard, is leading The Brain Tumour Charity fundraiser push as they look to help all families faced with this rare form of cancer. Further details, including how to donate, can be found here.
The transition to the new Parliamentary seats continues. The political parties are now organised on the new boundaries and so campaigning will follow, but the MPs don’t of course change until the election which could be another year. I am aspiring to the new Hammersmith & Chiswick seat and getting to know people in Chiswick, whose current MP is Ruth Cadbury. Please tell people you know there to get in touch or sign up to this newsletter. I will continue to cover all the Hammersmith issues, but am supporting Ben Coleman to win Chelsea & Fulham, including West Ken and Fulham Reach wards and Rupa Huq to win Ealing Central & Acton, now including College Park & Old Oak and Wormholt wards. We have a good Labour team locally and are just hoping for the chance to change things for the better.