There’s an important election on 2 May, but there should have been two.

Around the country new metro mayors, crime commissioners and local councils will be elected or re-elected this week. In London, thanks to the Government’s jiggery-pokery with the voting system, it is a straight choice between Sadiq Khan who does represent London and a Tory candidate who really doesn’t. But eight years into the most chaotic and least productive period of government for a century and four and a half since the last General Election the confusion in Downing Street is set to rumble on for a few more months.

The election we do have

 Campaigning with with Sadiq and James Small-Edwards in Old Oak this week
Campaigning with with Sadiq and James Small-Edwards in Old Oak this week

I am sure most people reading this newsletter will vote on 2 May – or have already voted by post. But depressingly only about a third of those eligible do vote in local and regional elections. And yet the fate of many important services depends on who wins as does London’s relations with the rest of the UK and the wider world.

I worked for Sadiq Khan for a number of years and know he is not only an honest and hard-working but an effective leader. Not an easy brief when a hostile government largely controls your powers and budget.

Sadiq’s policies mean almost 4000 primary school children now get free school meals in H&F. In his last term he invested over half a million in H&F youth clubs. And with H&F council he is building 400 council homes.

That’s a snapshot of his achievements and ambitions, the rest is here. By contrast his Conservative opponent would not only reverse many of these policies but has shown her support for the politics of the hard right, applauding Liz Truss, Donald Trump and even Enoch Powell.

In previous Mayor elections voters got to mark a second preference. The Tories realised that many Lib Dem and Green supporters after casting a vote for those candidates then chose Sadiq over the Tory candidate. So they have taken that choice away. Now the only way to ensure the Tory candidate does not win is to vote Labour.

In addition to a vote for the Mayor, we will elect the London Assembly and that means a vote for a local assembly candidate and for the party lists. If you live in H&F your candidate for West Central is James Small-Edwards. I have also been working in Chiswick where the candidate for South West London is Marcela Benedetti. They are both very good and I have no hesitation is recommending James and Marcela, but please also vote Labour for the list – not least because two excellent H&F councillors, Bora Kwon and Omid Miri are list candidates.

The election we don’t have

Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer

Opposition is important in a democracy but it is frustrating for those who would rather be in government and it is not surprising that my colleagues and I are champing at the bit for a General Election to be called. But so, I have found while door-knocking for the Mayor election, are most voters including life-long Conservatives. That does not mean they will all vote Labour. Some will, some will stick with the Conservatives, stay home or vote for other parties. But there is an unprecedented consensus that this is a government that has run out of steam and needs to be put out of its – and our – misery.

Nothing exemplifies this more than the Rwanda Bill. Whatever your views on immigration, small boats or even international law almost everyone can see that this is a pointless act of a government that has lost its way. It has taken huge amounts of time, money and political capital and yet no one, including Sunak, thinks it is the solution to anything.

In Parliament you can feel the frustration even among Conservative MPs. There is a lot of gallows humour about what they are going to do with their free time and the mess they are leaving someone else to clear up. But it is not a joke for people struggling with a cost-of-living crisis and collapsing public services. It is going to take many years to recover from the mess they have created, and another six months of dithering and inaction will only make the problem worse.

Chiswick, Chelsea and our new political landscape

 A map of the new Hammersmith & Chiswick constituency
A map of the new Hammersmith & Chiswick constituency

When the smoke has cleared from the Mayor election next week the campaign for that General Election will start up again almost immediately. Most money is on a mid-October or mid-November poll but there are endless debates around the exact date.

What we do know is that the parliamentary seats change quite radically in west London as a result of the constituency boundary review. Hammersmith becomes Hammersmith & Chiswick, losing its northern wards to Ealing, Central & Acton and its southern wards to Chelsea & Fulham and merging with the three Chiswick wards. The biggest change is for whoever becomes MP for Hammersmith & Chiswick (hopefully me, as Im the Labour candidate) with 25,000 new voters to get to know. That is something I am looking forward to.

The same is not true, I suspect, of the Tory MP for Chelsea & Fulham, Greg Hands, whose seat is gaining the wards of West Kensington and Fulham Reach from Hammersmith. This – plus the reputation of the government – puts the formerly safe Tory seat in play. Even more so given the Labour candidate, Ben Coleman is both well-liked and active in the area – and is currently tipped to win.

Perhaps I should be sympathetic to Greg having fought a tight race as incumbent myself in 2010, but he has problems of his own making. He supported the sale of 750 affordable homes on the West Ken and Gibbs Green estates to a developer who intended to demolish them. Only Labour winning control of the council and buying back the estates stopped that. He also supported the demolition of Charing Cross Hospital which required a 7-year campaign to win it a reprieve, and yet the hospital is still at risk because the government has de-funded its refurbishment.

Mr Hands may find people in Fulham and West Ken have long memories.


 Devastation in the Gaza strip
Devastation in the Gaza strip

It seems incredible that the bombardment of Gaza has lasted now more than six months. A decades-long conflict that began its current phase with an atrocity by Hamas has continued day by day with the most obscene use of weapons of war against a civilian population.

It is worse because the country committing those acts is a democracy and an ally of the UK. The government’s refusal to call for ceasefire, to say whether international law is being broken or to stop supplying arms to Israel is wholly wrong. The issue continues to dominate both public discourse and demonstrations and proceedings in Parliament. You can see my many interventions here, including at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Gaza remains the main issue constituents write to me about. Atrocity follows atrocity – from starvation and displacement to the systematic destruction of hospitals and homes. Now the conflict has spread to Lebanon, to the Gulf and to the West Bank where extremist settlers attack Palestinian towns with the collusion of the Israeli military.

Beyond the end to fighting, the supply of aid and the rebuilding of Gaza – which all seem far off hopes – we have to support the creation of a Palestinian state. It is the only solution that gives justice to Palestinians and security to Israelis. But for the present the extremists and their enablers on both sides have the ground.


Hammersmith Bridge
Hammersmith Bridge

Five years after Hammersmith Bridge closed to motor vehicles H&F council has spent £30 million it doesn’t really have stabilising the Bridge (a technical term for stopping it falling down) and planning how to reconstruct it. The government has contributed £13 million. This against a typical central government contribution of 80-90% to the cost of strategic road schemes.

Some Hammersmith residents contact me to say the Bridge should be left to cyclists and pedestrians given it was never built for buses and cars. But we can’t look at this Bridge in isolation. We have to look at the effect on the Chiswick, Putney and Wandsworth crossings and the roads leading up to them. That requires a much broader analysis than H&F can undertake.

I think in any other developed country this would have been resolved by now and – if that were the decision – the Bridge would have been restored to its former use. Here it has been weaponised by people like Grant Shapps, Greg Hands and Mark Harper as another political sideshow. The result: no one is happy and nothing has been resolved for the longer term. It is example of the stasis that grips almost every aspect of public life at present.


Another example is the state of our local NHS. It is now five years since Charing Cross Hospital got its reprieve from demolition. In 2019 not only did we celebrate the success of a 7-year campaign to save it, we knew the government would now have to come up with the money to repair not only Charing Cross but Hammersmith and St Mary’s.

Then they disappeared into Boris Johnson’s ‘new hospitals programme’ and have never emerged. The money set aside has been reallocated to hospitals that are also collapsing but are seen as higher political priorities. So world-class clinicians, dedicated staff and very sick patients are condemned to use broken buildings and be told lies about the prospects of getting the funding. The truth is less than 1% of the required funds has been promised and there is no timetable for the works to be done.

Meanwhile our local GP practices are being bought and sold by US companies only interested in the profits to be made from them. The Centene and GP at Hand ventures which took advantage of loopholes in NHS regulations – and were encouraged to do so by politicians like Matt Hancock – are another symptom of profit-taking from the NHS alongside covid contracts.

From 1 April the local NHS intended that GP appointments were booked through a centralised hub rather than patients’ own GPs. There was a great outcry about this and they backed off but the scheme has not been withdrawn. There are two main objections. Firstly, some GP practices manage their own appointments well and for them this would be a service downgrading. Others struggle, but the idea that remote call centres possibly with less qualified staff is the answer doesn’t make any sense.

Good friends and good citizens

Barrie Stead
Barrie Stead

I am sorry to report the deaths of some much loved and valued friends from our community in the past few weeks.

Dr Jenny Vaughan was a neurologist and campaigner who lost a long battle with cancer at the age of only 55. The Guardian featured this obituary of her. I knew Jenny as an H&F councillor but also worked with her on cases of doctors who were wrongly criticised and in some cases imprisoned for their work. She was a passionate and compassionate seeker after justice and a great doctor. She leaves a husband, Matt, and two children.

Barrie Stead had been active for six decades in politics when he died at 88 last month. He was the opposite of what most people think politicians are like. Barrie was endlessly kind and attentive to people’s problems and, along with his wife Millie, who predeceased him by only a few weeks, were two of the finest people you could wish to meet. His lifelong friend Steve Schifferes has written this obituary for Barrie.

Both Jenny and Barrie helped me over many years and I will miss them. As I will Diana Lashmore, a formidable BBC Music and Arts producer in the 1980s and 90s who then became a pillar of the Labour Party locally. Diana died last month after a short illness.

Steve Curran, former leader of Hounslow Council died in March Steve was a popular and energetic champion of his borough and a good friend.

We also mourn Alex Kareem four years since he was murdered. Alex was a promising university student shot dead in Askew Road in a case of mistaken identity. There was a huge turnout for a vigil to mark what would have been Alex’s 24th birthday on 25th March in Ravenscourt Park. Police are offering a reward for anyone who can help find his killers.


In Parliament I have recently raised a number of local issues including:

I have objected to another bank closing – Nat West in White City. Labour plans for banking hubs will help offset the loss of over a third of local banks in recent years.

The new WEST Youth Zone opened last week in White City. It is a fantastic resource, especially after years of cuts in funding for young people.

And this week Kenmont Primary in College Park opened the new community building the pupils will share with local residents, 15 years after the old community hub was sold off and demolished.

Read Easy Hammersmith and Fulham are seeking volunteers for local one-to-one coaching for adult who want to learn to read. Please contact Nicola Quinnen at

Congratulations to local residents whose excellent community work has been recognised. Ruth Savary of Friends of Margravine Cemetery was awarded a ‘Tree Oscar’ for her work improving one of our best open spaces.

Vicky Wood received a BEM for her community work including chairing Grove Neighbourhood Centre for the past decade. Which reminds me, the GNC is holding its summer sale on 1 June 11am-2pm. Always a good place to pick up bargains.

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