Conservative candidate for Hammersmith & Chiswick “embarrassed” by betting scandal

Image: Labour’s Andy Slaughter (L); Liberal Democrats’ Eraj Rostaqi; Conservatives’ Andrew Dinsmore; Green Party’s Naranee Ruthra-Rajan; Editor of the Chiswick Calendar Bridget Osborne (R)

Notes from Sunday night’s hustings, organised and moderated by The Chiswick Calendar

Guest blog by first time voter, Edie Oborne

The Conservative Party has announced today (Tuesday 15 June) it has withdrawn its support from two candidates embroiled in the election betting scandal, following the news that two officials, and an officer from Rishi Sunak’s close protection team are being investigated by the Gambling Commission over the placing of bets on the timing of the election

The issue came up at Sunday’s Chiswick Calendar hustings with four candidates in the General Election race for the new Hammersmith & Chiswick constituency – the candidates for Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Green Party, which polled most in Hammersmith at the last election.

The question from the audience was what could be done to bring ethics back into politics.

Conservative candidate Andrew Dinsmore said:

‘The scandal’s an absolute disgrace. It’s embarrassing. Embarrassing for me. The gambling thing’s embarrassing for me. And I slogged my guts out campaigning. I’m proud to be here to represent the principles I believe in, the ideas I believe in. And if some idiot in CCHQ may or may not have been making bets, you couldn’t make it up.”

On quite what to do about the decline of ethics in politics he deferred to Andy Slaughter, who has been MP for the Hammersmith area since 2005, and was Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council before that.

Andy Slaughter said he hoped that the new parliament being voted in, however it was composed, would mark a change in British politics and recreate the sense of duty and service required in public life, rather than the tendency to selfishness it had become. He stressed that not all MPs were like that, whichever party they were in.

The Chiswick Calendar’s hustings allowed the audience to see a more personal side to the Conservative, Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat candidates for Hammersmith and Chiswick. They could shed their skin slightly and reveal their own personal beliefs which noticeably differed from the firm party line we are so used to hearing in the robotic election press rounds.

Andy Slaughter, the Labour candidate, expressed his remorse at the UK’s decision to leave the EU, wanting to re-join when the time is right, a stance and an issue which moderator, The Chiswick Calendar’s editor Bridget Osborne put to him the Labour party had ducked completely.

“On the Brexit issue, I think you’re right to say the majority of the people in this room and the majority of Chiswick as a whole are Remainers and we think it was a disastrous decision.

“I agree that it was an act of appalling self-harm which will continue to harm us economically, but we did lose the referendum. However poorly we were misled by the bus and all that. And we did lose the 2019 election. I think we have to have permission from the British people and see consistent polls, running substantially to say they want us to go back in.

“I think we have to review our economic relationship, first. I think then people will then ask the question, hang on. ‘You’ve now got a perfect economic relationship, don’t you want a constitutional relationship as well, you haven’t got a seat round the table.’

“And that will in due course lead to a second referendum, I would hope, possibly, in the second term of a Labour government. But you cannot, it would look arrogant to say to people keep voting till you get it right.”

Andy Slaughter also stepped away from the party line when he agreed with the Liberal Democrat candidate, Eraj Rostaqi on proportional representation:

“I actually agree on all that I’ve heard, whether on votes for 16-17 year olds, [a pledge in the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto] and PR [Proportional Representation] and [rejoining] the single market.’

“I think I’m allowed to disagree with my party on the issues I’ve already been sacked on,” he joked, citing his record opposing the third runway, opposing Brexit and calling for ceasefire in Gaza.

He also made his personal views clear when he showed his sympathies for parents with children in the independent school sector. Labour Party policy is to add 20% VAT to private school fees. Many people in Chiswick, and many in the audience at George IV on Sunday night had children in private schools.

Bridget Osborne asked him what he would say to parents with a child about to start their GCSE course, worrying that they would have to pull them out of school.

“I am fully supportive of the independent sector and I went to an independent school myself, and it would be hypocritical of me not to be.

“There are 16 in the new constituency. I don’t think anybody wants to make the changes that are being made. But I’ve spoke already in detail about the real crisis in state education in teaching and in the premises. And looking in the economic situation we have, for a solution to that. One of the solutions is putting VAT on to private school fees.’

He said, if elected, he would be a voice for a smooth negotiation of how to impose VAT on private schools, allowing time for schools and parents to make the transition, and understanding the difference between the smaller ‘not for profit schools’ and larger hedge-fund owned institutions.

The Labour and Conservative candidates were held to account on the practicalities of their manifesto’s policies on housing, the NHS, transport and their own records. Yet, it was the smaller Green and Lib Dem parties who won over the audience, who showed surprising zeal for their policies on increased taxation to fund public services.

Eraj Rostaqi, the Liberal Democrat candidate, received many rounds of applause for policies on fixing sewage, raising corporate taxes, criticising Brexit and even criticising the notoriously controversial Chiswick cycle lanes.

“I’m saying this as a cyclist, I’ve been cycling for a long time, and, it’s great to see so many more people cycling in London, but I think the design of the CS line is an absolutely terrible, terrible design. I may have helped the cyclists but it’s made the traffic far worse than it should be.”

Addressing national issues, he said:

“We are in paralysis at the moment and the government has been paralysis for the past few years. Leaving the EU, Brexit, has been the one of the biggest self-inflicted harm any country has done to itself in recent years.”

Naranee Ruthra-Rajan, the Green candidate, made popular arguments for increased taxation in order to fund our crumbling public services:

‘You can’t keep coming up with random ideas like National Service, and ignore the fact that you have cut youth services left, right and centre.

“I work with young people, I work for charity that works for young people and people, the ones who are trying to provide for them are stretched beyond belief and that supports the university sector, the college sector, the cultural sector. We have to start investing in this country.”

She explained her party’s more controversial wealth tax on billionaires and millionaires, which was met with applause.

“We would support local communities to have energy sources that that they own, so those profits from them can be used to either reduce bills locally or be reinvested in the community, because the Green Party does trust local authority, that’s where better decisions can get made.

“But that again, needs proper investment. And so the way we would pay for it is by some changes to the tax system. One of them being that we would tax the billionaires 2%. These are people with a well over a thousand million pounds. And we’d tax the 10 millionaires 1%.

“We would also have a carbon tax. So, the polluters pay. Ultimately, it’s about fairness and support for everyone and to support people who have to receive these services and to work alongside us and with respect.”

The evening provided a refreshing relief from the rehearsed political debates we are so used to in the mainstream and allowed space for the less heard parties, which was met with great interest by the audience.

It allowed us to see what the people of Chiswick really want, which might not be a lowering of taxation as suggested by the leading parties but instead a restoration of public services and closer relationships with Europe. And perhaps allowed the people of Chiswick to learn that their candidates are slightly more nuanced than the three-line slogans their parties suggest.

See what some of the audience members had to say about the evening here:

READ ALSO: Hammersmith & Chiswick hustings – residents give their response

Chiswick falls into two parliamentary constituencies, with the wards of Chiswick Homefields, Chiswick Riverside and Chiswick Gunnersbury falling in Hammersmith & Chiswick, and Southfield ward in Ealing Central and Acton.

There are eight candidates standing for election in the Hammersmith & Chiswick constituency, and eight in Ealing Central and Acton. We are currently trying to do interviews with them all, which will appear on the website soon.

Meanwhile you can see the whole list, and a bit about each of the candidates standing here:

READ ALSO: Hammersmith & Chiswick Parliamentary candidates

READ ALSO: Ealing Central and Acton’s Parliamentary candidates

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar