Getting to know Andy Slaughter – probably our next MP

Image above: Andy Slaughter MP with Ruth Cadbury MP, Chiswick Calendar editor Bridget Osborne and others at the Private View for The Chiswick Calendar’s art and phhotography exhibition at the Clayton hotel

What manner of beastie is our (likely) next MP?

Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, has come to a couple of community events in Chiswick this week. First he was invited to the Private View to mark the opening of The Chiswick Calendar’s art & photography exhibition at the Clayton hotel on Tuesday, then to the unveiling of the new artwork for the W4th plinth on Sunday.

On both occasions he came with Ruth Cadbury, as there is every likelihood that after the next general election he will take over from her as our MP.

The constituency boundary changes which are due to be decided in July are widely expected to be accepted by parliament, which will put the part of Chiswick which is currently in Ruth Cadbury’s Brentford & Isleworth constituency into Andy’s. (Rupa Huq keeps the part which is currently in her constituency of Ealing Central and Acton).

This may be a little premature, as the boundary changes have still to become official, and he then has to win an election, but with that expectation, Ruth has gently begun the process of introducing him to her constituents in Chiswick, and we at The Chiswick Calendar have decided it was time we knew more about him.

Image above: Collecting food for the local foodbank

A Labour West Londoner

He is Labour, but has defied the Labour leadership three times in his career, he told The Chiswick Calendar, once over Heathrow, once over the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, and once over Brexit.  He was born and bred in Fulham, moving to Shepherd’s Bush in 1998, and was the Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham before he became an MP in 2005. He campaigned against the closure of A&E facilities at Charing Cross Hospital.

He lives off Askew Rd in the triangle where the boroughs of Ealing, Hounslow and Hammersmith & Fulham meet. That, he told The Chiswick Calendar, is quite handy because when he was first elected to parliament it was to represent the constituency of Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush; then in the boundary changes of 2010 he was selected for the new constituency of Hammersmith, and now if all goes as expected, he will be acquiring the Chiswick part of Hounslow.

This is not, as the Americans say, his first rodeo.

We of course, will remain in the Borough of Hounslow, it’s just that our MP will represent Hammersmith & Chiswick, not Hounslow.

Image above: Counting wet wipes at ‘Wet Wipe Island’ along the Thames

“Hammersmith and Chiswick a good fit”

“I think Hammersmith and Chiswick are a very good fit” he told me. “I think it’s an exciting prospect; I feel we are renewing the constituency rather than changing it, and although it saddens me to lose areas I have represented in one way or another for nearly 40 years, I have never seen a boundary review with fewer objections.

“Geographically there is continuity from one to the other along the Goldhawk Road, from King Street into Chiswick High Rd and along the river. There are some interesting things in King Street which attract people from Chiswick. The introduction of IKEA has brought that whole end of King Street up and we will soon be opening the new civic centre which will have a cinema and cafes.”

Living where he does, Andy says he comes to Chiswick to do his food shopping.

“I tend to go to Mackens for meat and Covent Garden fishmongers, as I’m a big fish-eater. I go to Sainsburys and Waitrose in Chiswick High Rd and the delis in Turnham Green Terrace.”

Image above: The Refugee Tales walk along Hammersmith and Chiswick riverside, ending at the Wetlands Centre, to protest against Indefinite Detention

Three times resigned or sacked over differences of opinion with Labour leadership

His voting record is very similar to Ruth Cadbury’s. He served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to several ministers in Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s governments, in Transport and the Foreign Office, resigning in 2009 because of his opposition to the Government’s plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

A man of principle then?

“Well once you have made your position clear, you hope to take people with you, but if you don’t manage it, you have no option but to resign.”

What a delightfully old-fashioned view by today’s political standards.

Having started his professional career in the same law chambers as Keir Starmer, he was invited by Ed Miliband to join Labour’s front bench as Shadow Justice Minister in 2010, the portfolio which includes courts and tribunals, criminal law, freedom of information, the legal profession, civil justice reform and Legal Aid. He resigned in 2016 over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Appointed Shadow Minister for Housing in October 2016 he was sacked from the frontbench in June 2017 after he voted in favour of the amendment to the Queen’s Speech which called on the UK to remain in the European Single Market, in defiance of the Labour whip.

Should Labour make it a priority to rejoin the EU?

“Do I believe we would be better off in the EU or in a closer relationship with the EU? Yes I do.

“More than one in five of the population of Hammersmith were EU citizens at the time of the referendum, but you cannot just ignore decisions that have been democratically taken. We lost the referendum and then we lost the 2019 election, in which Brexit was the main issue, in spectacular form.

“We have to wait for the public to give us the cue – very clear indications over a long period of time that they want it to change. That’s not a position that any politician wants, you want to lead, but these are a very special set of circumstances, a referendum and an election.

“I think it has been a terrible mistake, but it has to be the public telling us that they want to change the decision.”

Image above: Andy Slaughter MP electioneering with the Shadow Foreign Secretary, David Lammy MP

Diane Abbott’s comments “totally inappropriate”

We spoke on the day Keir Starmer had suspended Diane Abbott over her comments on racism and prejudice. Commenting on Tomiwa Owolade’s piece Racism in Britain is not a black and white issue. It’s far more complicated, she wrote:

‘Tomiwa Owolade claims that Irish , Jewish and Traveller people all suffer from “racism”. They undoubtedly experience prejudice. This is similar to racism and the two words are often used as if they are interchangeable.

‘It is true that many types of white people with points of difference, such as redheads, can experience this prejudice. But they are not all their lives subject to racism. In pre-civil rights America, Irish people, Jewish people and Travellers were not required to sit at the back of the bus. In apartheid South Africa, these groups were allowed to vote. And at the height of slavery, there were no white-seeming people manacled on the slave ships.”

Andy Slaughter told The Chiswick Calendar:

“Hammersmith has one of the largest Irish populations of anywhere in the country. I have done a lot of work with Travellers, who are some of the poorest and worst treated people in the country, and there is a lot of anti-Irish and anti-Traveller racism.

“Her comments were poor. She was trying to differentiate between different types of racism and prejudice, which is a slippery slope.

“Diane was the first black woman to become an MP and she has put up with a lot of racism herself, but while I have sympathy with her as an individual, these were totally inappropriate comments to make. Totally tin-eared.”

Thoughts on Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer has taken a bit of a bashing of late, on whether he will be capable of leading the Labour Party to victory at the next election. What does Andy think?

“I worked with him 30 years ago and have such respect for him. He has done some big jobs. Director of Public Prosecutions means running a very important government department, the Crown Prosecution Service. He entered politics late. He became an MP in 2015 but he has learned very quickly how politics works.

“He has experience, energy and integrity. He is incredibly hard working. The country is in the worst mess it has been for a very long time, and we need all those attributes to sort it out.

“We’ve had the showman and the radical ideas. Now it’s time to rebuild and improve people’s quality of life.”

Image above: Chiswick Town Hall; Fulham Town Hall, now a luxury hotel for the Lamington Group

Thoughts on Chiswick Town Hall

I mentioned Chiswick Town Hall as being a lovely building in need of a little TLC and a ripe for opening up into a proper community hub. Might his experience be useful in making that happen?

He said rather ruefully that his first job in politics had been to do up Fulham town hall and restore it to its former beauty, only to see a change of leadership sell it off to a hotel chain. But yes, Chiswick Town Hall is a lovely old building, he has been to many meetings there, and Hammersmith and Chiswick have things they can learn from each other, including possibly how to develop our town hall.

Image above: C9 in Chiswick High Rd

Thoughts on C9

Cycleway 9 is an issue with which he is very familiar. What are his thoughts?

“I am in favour of cycleways. I have listened very carefully to arguments about C9. There have been teething problems. In Hammersmith there’s a logjam of buses at the entrance to King Street, backing up onto the roundabout because of the cycle lane.

“There are logistical problems which continue to need to be solved. I am sure we can resolve them, and I hope the councils will continue to listen. Partly it just needs to settle in. The main argument is about safety, but the cycling infrastructure has brought improvements to the infrastructure generally – the look of the place, with the improved work surfaces and freshly painted lines.”

Does he ride a bike?

“Not as often as I should. I’m an occasional cyclist. I’m no Ruth Cadbury.”

But will he be the next Ruth Cadbury?

“Not wishing to jump the gun”

This interview comes with a health warning. The next election is a while away and Ruth Cadbury continues to be the MP for most of Chiswick for the time being. But …

“We are expecting the changes to happen over the summer. I don’t want to appear to be jumping the gun, but we have been told unofficially that we won’t have to be reselected, having gone through the selection process six months ago.”

His majority at the last election was 18,000. The demographics are such that he will be losing strong Labour areas and gaining a more uncertain electoral area. (In Chiswick we tend to vote Tory in council elections but voted by a slight majority for Sadiq Khan in the London Mayoral elections and have voted in a Labour MP in the last two elections).

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