2024 SW London Assembly elections: Interview with Reform UK candidate Steve Chilcott

Reform Party’s candidate for the SW London Assembly seat Steve Chilcott

“People are dispossessed by all the parties”

The Mayoral elections take place on Thursday 2 May. Sadiq Khan is defending his record, and up for election also are the 25 London Assembly members whose job it is to hold the mayor to account. The Mayor’s office and the London Assembly together form the Greater London Authority, responsible for transport, policing, planning, culture, environment, health, fire and emergency services and economic planning in London.

In the run up to the 2024 London elections, The Chiswick Calendar is interviewing contenders for the South-West seat on the London Assembly, which covers the three boroughs of Hounslow, Richmond and Kingston.

Steve Chilcott is Reform UK’s candidate for the London Assembly. Having worked in HR for most of his professional life and having never been involved in politics before becoming a candidate for Reform, I asked Steve why he found the right-wing populist agenda enticing.

In 2021, Reform polled at just 1.6% in London’s local elections and the SW London Assembly election, but national polls in 2024 put them at a close third to the Conservative Party and they are on at least 5% in London-wide polls.

During our interview, sticking with the party’s line, Steve said ULEZ should be scrapped and efforts to reduce toxic air pollution in London are a waste of time, amounting to a stealth tax on the poorest Londoners. He criticised the record of City Hall on policing, as well what he described as the failure of the Opposition in holding the Mayor to account. Steve says proper scrutiny is what he can offer.

Steve goes as far to question whether the office of the Mayor of London and the London Assembly are worth having at all.

Read my interview with Steve below.

The Chiswick Calendar’s interview with Steve Chilcott – Reform UK

Could you give voters a bit of background about yourself?

“I’m 54, separated, teenage son currently doing GCSEs. Grew up on the south coast and moved to London in 2000 so I’ve been here 24 years now. Studied biology at University of Bath then did a post-grad in Human Resources at Portsmouth university and have worked in HR now for most of my adult life across lots of different sectors.

“Previously lived in Chiswick near Gunnersbury Station, but currently now live in the borough of Ealing where I’ve now lived for the last 13 years.

“Never previously been involved in politics, never stood for election before this is my first time…

What’s motivated you to run for the London Assembly?

“Initially I was appointed by Reform to be a parliamentary candidate and I applied for that process, they actually asked me if I’d be interested in being a GLA member so I thought absolutely why not?”

What was it that enticed you to stand for Reform?

“In the past, throughout my adult life I’ve supported all different parties, I supported the Lib Dems at one point, I voted Labour in the past. But I like a lot of people are, am fed up with the sort of status quo in our political world in Britain. It’s a two horse race with our first past the post system we just swing from Tory to Labour to Tory.

“I think they’ve both left and forgotten their grass roots, whether its the Labour Party forgetting the working people that they originally stood for or the Conservatives forgetting they’re actual conservatives…

“The one thing George Galloway said that I completely agree with is that they’re different cheeks of the same backside. I just don’t think they understand where most people are and what most people’s concerns and thoughts are.”

What do you see as the most pressing issues facing Londoners, or the most pressing concerns?

“I think lots of things, I think ULEZ is of particular concern particularly in the outer boroughs like we are here in the south-west. I think a lot of people who do use cars are often at the lower-pay end or are pensioners.

“I think that what seems to be a continual attack on the car driver is one very big issue, obviously ULEZ being a large part of that. But not just ULEZ, LTNs, 20-MPH limits, the continual narrowing of roads and frankly the increasing congestion that we see in Chiswick and going on in Brentford as we speak.

“Another big issue is crime, crime has just being going up and up and up. Particularly violent crime and sexual based crime, both in Hounslow the borough of Chiswick and across London.

“I think people are worried that there’s not an awful lot going on, police station are being closed, stop and search is reduced and the crime levels just go and up and up and the London politicians, in their actions, don’t seem to be tackling it or accepting that it’s a big concern to people.”

With regards to ULEZ, what would you change about it, how do you feel about it? Is it a worthwhile policy or do you think there are things that need to be tweaked?

“My personal view and the view of my party and certainly the view of Howard Cox our Reform mayoral candidate, is that should be scrapped in its entirety. It is a tax on the poor, it is an additional tax, it is an additional source of income generation.

“Luckily the air in London has been getting significantly cleaner since way before ULEZ was even thought about, I don’t think the claim that is made that ULEZ is anti-pollution and is a health measure, I simply do not believe and I don’t think they have the statistics to show that. It is another tax ultimately to fill a massive chasm in TfL funding which has got a huge black hole in its funding. It’s another way of getting more money off of us. It’s a tax and it’s a regressive tax a Labour leader has introduced.

“I think it’s astounding, a Labour Party formed for the working people, for people that are at the lower end of the pay spectrum. The rich people with two Rolls Royce, paying the ULEZ charge to them is of no consequence if their car is not compliant, the only people it hurts is the lower paid people.”

What do you have to say about the report which found that toxic-air pollution was reduced thanks to Ulez, and do you think that air pollution is an issue?

“We know Sadiq Khan put pressure on the university that released that data because he wasn’t happy with what the conclusion was. I don’t think there has been definitive evidence that Ulez has had an impact on cleaning the air in London. Hasn’t Sadiq Khan apologised that data will not be made available until after the election? Well there’s a surprise.

“I refute the claim that there is data that Ulez has had any significant impact on cleaning the air pollution.”

Moving onto police reform, if you have read any of our reporting on shoplifting in Chiswick, it’s a national trend. How might Reform approach the issue?

“Well certainly to ensure the police won’t be making it an unimportant crime so they don’t give time and attention to. It seems the police have taken the decision to de-prioritise it, I guess is the word I was looking for.

“It affects all retailers and all businesses, whether they’re big ones like Sainsbury’s and Tesco, it hits them in the pocket but its the smaller businesses where its more impactful. We’ve all seen videos that are Tweeted etc, with people showing their faces walking out with stuff unchallenged and the poor business owners and shop owners can’t do anything about it.

“We do need to look how the police are utilised, the amount of time they spend out on the beat is a very small portion of their time. Community policing seems to be largely non-existent across London now, so I think community policing needs to be increased and police presence needs to be increased.

“We need to seriously think whether it was the right decision to close down all these police stations. Whether we open police stations or just have small access points where people can access police locally is something that might needs to be done.”

And with regards to police reform? There’s been a number of reforms by the Policing Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, is there anything you would oppose in police reform or suggest otherwise that hasn’t already been suggested?

“The Metropolitan Police force is a vast entity and there does seem to have been to a move towards more centralisation and bigger zones that are managed, I’m not sure that is right.

“Obviously there are certain police services that do need to be looked at from a bigger size, but when it comes down to the majority of crime that does need to be managed locally and I think local leadership of the police is really important.

“They know what the priorities are, they know what the issues are they know what the community’s concerns are. So I think a move back to local policing in London would be a good thing.”

So the South-West London Assembly seat has been held by a Conservative since its inception, do you think this time around they’ll be unseated? What are people saying to you on the door step?

“The south-west Greater London constituency is quite unusual because it’s quite a mixed patch. Hounslow, the council is very much Labour-led, Kingston, Richmond swing between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

“What I’m hearing on the door is that people are dispossessed by all the parties. People don’t even know who their constituency GLA members are, I think that’s quite telling in itself. I didn’t know until I looked into it when I knew I was standing.

“The fact that these are just unknown, invisible faces that are supposed to be representing their constituencies is very indicative of the poor state of politics across London. They’re not even known let alone holding the mayor to account which is ultimately the main responsibility of a GLA member.

“I think it will be very interesting nationally, the polls are saying Labour are ahead, the Conservatives are crashing down and Reform are rapidly approaching the level of Conservatives nationally. That according to the polls doesn’t seem to be completely mirrored in London, but the support for Reform is increasing in London but maybe not at the same rate it is nationally.

“I think the biggest thing that will affect this is how many people both coming out and voting. Unfortunately the turnout might be quite low, it might be in the 30s and 40s and democracy suffers when that happens. I hope I and all the other candidates can encourage people to get out and vote.

“I think its down to whether Reform can come to people’s attention. I feel like if we do then people will see we are sensible people who have not necessarily come from the political background but have sensible, practical policies. So that’s the challenge for reform in the coming weeks up to the second of May.”

As you said it’s a scrutiny role, so what different do you think you could realistically make make if you were elected as an Assembly Member

“Hold the mayor to account, Susan Hall herself, who is obviously the mayoral Tory candidate, has been on the GLA for eight years, she charges the Police & Crime Committee. What has she and all of them been doing to hold Sadiq Khan to account? It’s very difficult to see what they’ve done to achieve that.

“In a way it makes me think is what is the purpose of the GLA and the purpose of the London Mayor? Are they serving their purpose or do we need to go back to square one and review these structures and review these roles?

“Are they right for London, are they benefiting London, are they adding value or is just a wasteful additional cost of bureaucracy that achieves nothing more than having “specialists” in charge of these different areas? A policing expert, a business expert or whatever. Because it’s quite questionable at the moment the benefit and the value-add the Mayor of London and the GLA is giving us all.”

My final question Steve is why are you a better choice than your fellow candidates?

“Because I’ve worked all my life in different industries, across different sectors, doing proper work. I am not a career politician. I will listen to people and I will do what my community wants me to do, not being driven by some ideologically driven view. I want what’s best for London and what’s best for Londoners, and I want sensible pragmatic policies that people will want.”