Hammersmith & Chiswick parliamentary candidate: Conservatives

Images: The Conservative Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith & Chiswick Andrew Dinsmore; Conservatives logo

“People want to elect their local champion that understands their issues generally”

The 2024 General Election takes place on Thursday 4 July. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is defending the Conservative Party’s record in government after 14 years in power.

As polling day approaches, The Chiswick Calendar has interviewed the parliamentary candidates for the newly created Chiswick & Hammersmith constituency, which covers most of Chiswick.

There are eight candidates standing for election. Second on the ballot paper is Andrew Dinsmore, who is standing for the Conservatives. Andrew is a criminal barrister and a councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham. He made headlines earlier this year for his role in a petition to the Home Office to ban “zombie” knives in the UK.

The Conservatives have promised if they win the election that flights to Rwanda will take off, sending asylum seekers who have entered the country illegally abroad to be processed. The party wishes to press ahead with this flagship policy which they say will crush the people-smuggling gangs and deter channel crossings, despite charities and human rights organisations raising concerns about Rwanda’s safety and whether the policy itself violates international law.

Other manifesto commitments the Conservatives have made include reforming the planning system to make it easier to build the 1.6 million homes they have pledged to build, adding a cap on migration numbers and reforming the welfare system.

Andrew is fighting the campaign against the backdrop of ominous polling for the Conservatives. His primary opponent is the long-time Labour MP for Hammersmith: Andy Slaughter.

The Chiswick Calendar’s Interview with Andrew Dinsmore – Conservatives

Can you share some examples of how the Tories’ policies have positively impacted people living in Hammersmith & Chiswick over the last few years?

“One of the first policies that comes to mind would be furlough. Furlough was a nationwide success protecting jobs particularly so across Hammersmith & Chiswick which is a very built-up area. Which required quite strict lockdowns.

“Another area for future, I think, would be the approach they’re taking for the traffic schemes. I think having a more nationwide input into some of the local traffic schemes would be a huge benefit to Hammersmith & Chiswick, where I think the local councils haven’t got it right.

“And then of course the position on Ukraine has benefitted everybody throughout the UK in terms of the security of the nation and making sure that we were a markedly, a world-leader in the response.”

I see. So specifically onto housing, the Tories have promised to build 1.6 million homes in the next five years if elected. Given previous failures to meet similar targets, how can the Tories ensure they’ll meet this one?

“I think they’ll couple that with a more pragmatic approach to planning. Simplifying the planning system to make it easier for developers to be able to develop.”

What would that look like, reform of the planning system?

“It could be a simplification of the process, I haven’t had the opportunity to look at the detail of how that’s gonna change, it think they’re going to review it. At the moment developments are getting too tangled up in planning committees and we need to make sure that we unlock the potential of the area in terms of better developments.”

Lots of new homes that are built in Hammersmith & Chiswick are simply unaffordable for a lot of first time buyers though. How would the Tories address those concerns and and how can they genuinely help first time buyers?

“One of the key manifesto pledges is to scrap stamp duty for first time buyers in their first house up to £450,000. So that will help to make it easier to get on the ladder. Also of course the government has various help-to-buy schemes which have been a great success and they’re going to continue to push those forward.”

With renters, how can voters who are renting put their faith in the Tories when certain promises such as a ban on no-fault evictions and strengthening the rights of tenants haven’t really been met?

“I mean, part of that has been obviously the snap election, that was obviously being worked on closely by Michael Gove. He’s done a lot of great work in that area and it is work the government intends to take forward into the next parliament.

“…It was just one of those areas that in the final moments couldn’t quite get through. But the government’s commitment to meet that remains the same as always has been. I think the government wants to remove no-fault evictions and make sure there’s more security of tenure for renters.”

Okay. So you mentioned transport earlier, so let’s go on to Hammersmith Bridge and what specifics steps would be taken to re-open Hammersmith Bridge if you were elected, critics have accused the government of dragging their feet at best and perhaps sabotage in the reopening at worst. What would you say to those critiques?

“That’s a totally false narrative. The government has agreed to pay two-thirds, one-third directly and one third through TfL. It’s been the Labour-run Council that has dragged its feet on this. They’ve not been putting forward realistic business plans in a sensible period of time. It’s unsurprising because it’s obviously part of Labour’s anti-motorist agenda, which we see in traffic schemes, we see in extortionate parking charges, we see in cycle-lanes removing cars and we see it with Hammersmith Bridge.

“It’s clear that the Labour-run Council simply will not reopen this bridge in any sensible timetable. The Conservative Party are calling for the bridge to transfer to TfL, which deals with major infrastructure projects throughout the city and has the budget to be able to re-open it as soon as possible. So that would be the Conservative approach to re-opening Hammersmith Bridge.”

Okay, thank you. Sticking with transport, onto public transport now. Obviously there’s been plenty of strikes over the last few years and they are ongoing, how would the Conservatives tackle resolving the strikes with trains?

“Industrial action is something governments always have to deal with. There’s obviously been a lot post-Covid that this government has dealt with very successfully.

“If we contrast TfL’s record in Tube strikes and how the government has managed many of the train strikes, the Government has got a much better record.

“With any of these industrial disputes, the key is to find a compromise. Union workers probably feel that they aren’t properly rewarded for the work they do, but equally that it doesn’t become disproportionately burdensome on those using the service. If you continue to work constructively with unions to fair compromises on strikes, but equally making sure that any strike action is properly democratic and properly voted-through.”

Okay. let’s move on to migration now, the proposed legal cap on migration could impact sectors that are already struggling such as hospitality, health care for example. How will the Tories address potential labour shortages in Hammersmith & Chiswick, and ensure that the cap does not negatively affect public services?

“Well first and foremost we’ve got to focus on making sure the training and skills are available for young people coming through to go into those industries – make sure there’s a real focus on making sure that any young person in Hammersmith & Chiswick would be able to gain the skills they need fill those jobs.

“So I mean , the apprenticeship schemes the government is rolling out out in relation to hospitality, could be a very good way into those sectors. Similarly the government is funding huge resources to fund tens of thousands of more nurses to make sure the NHS gaps are filled.

“So that’s how we would protect those public services and those industry, we’ve got to make sure that we find people who are looking for jobs and they want to fill the places. They’ve got the training and skills to be able to do that and the government’s committed to make sure that those people have properly the resources they need to do so.”

Right. With regards to and Rwanda and an immigration again, given the numerous legal challenges and the limited scope of the current agreement. How realistic do you think is the plan to start regular flights by July 2024?

“I think it is realistic, the first flight is due to take off in July. The Prime Minister has made it clear that all the legal merry-go-rounds will stop and if push comes to shove he will look at our international obligations and re-negotiate those to make sure that the flights can take off.

“It is a deterrent to the gangs, and we’ve put in place a lot of safeguards to make sure Rwanda is a safe country for people to go to. But it’s also one part of a wider strategy. The government’s also announced in its manifesto a desire to engage intelligence services more and the National Crime Agency, to make sure we actually cut down on the gangs as well.

“Just to be clear on Rwanda, it’s designed to remove the business model of the people who are taking advantage of the unfortunate people people who have to pay them to come here.

“The government has always been compassionate to those seeking asylum and seeking refuge and, you know, the issue is with people smugglers and about trying to remove their business model and making sure people don’t pay them to travel across. Alongside hard policing, and improving the system and the access to the system for those overseas, so they don’t feel to turn to the people smugglers.”

A refugee charity in west London called West London welcome has described the policy as inhumane and with the removal of legal routes into the country as well, do you do not feel the slightest bit guilty perhaps supporting this policy which has been described as inhumane?

“I don’t feel at all guilty about it. There’s safeguards in place in Rwanda, it is a thriving African country, the Albanian policy and the Albanian agreement showed a reduction of 90% showing that the sort of agreements can work. The government will always ensure that if they need to transfer people to a third country that it is in fact safe, and there’s huge amounts of money being put in to make sure that that’s the case.

“Many other European nations are also looking at similar schemes to deal with a crisis affecting all of Europe, which is mass migration. I think the simple fact of processing them outside of the UK is not inhumane. I think some people who made those comments are stuck thirty years ago with some of the difficulties that Rwanda faced and they’ve come through, it’s a thriving African country.”

Let’s move on to welfare, so previous attempts to change welfare spend have faced significant challenges and other major political parties have said that there wouldn’t be a return to austerity and what strategies would the Tories and implement to achieve the £12 million in proposed savings without harm to vulnerable people?

“One of the difficulties with our welfare system at the moment, especially when it comes to being out of work due to sickness, is that is very black and white. You’re either not fit to work you are to work. The Government wants to review that and make a more nuanced system sister where people can get the support that they need and the treatment they need for example in relation to mental health issues, to make sure that they can get back to work.

“There is obviously a sliding scale with those things and some people can be treated and they get back into work quicker than others. Obviously after Covid we’ve experienced quite a shift with people’s relation to work there’s a lot more people working from home and with that change there’s been quite a big rise in mental health issues.”

The government will seek to review the system to make sure that people need treatment get it, those who can work do work… There’s a lot of studies that show that you’re being in work it is beneficial to people, it can be a negative spiral if you are out of work and you’ve got mental health issues and that compound on itself and you become isolated.

“Engaging with work, being in work environment, being in a community, you know getting sense of purpose, that self-esteem, is what I think a lot of people want. What they don’t want is to be dependent on the state, people want to work and want to provide for their families. “Obviously at the moment this country, there’s a lot of people feel they can’t. And so it’s about trying to adapt working practices, get treatment and provide services to make sure there is a way for people to engage.

“In the modern world, that’s more possible than it’s ever been due to the internet, due to cyber jobs. For example, if you have agoraphobia where you find busy, big open places extremely stressful, clearly it would not be appropriate to work in a supermarket. However, you may be able to do a job you know in an online marketing role, where actually you’re working trough Skype, or Teams or Zoom on your terms – but you’re engaging constructively and it has all of the positive benefits.

“So this isn’t about stripping back welfare wholesale and leaving people without any options, it’s about tailoring welfare to make sure that every has an opportunity to continue engaging with work and getting back into work, while also reducing the welfare bill from the all or nothing position we’re in at the moment.”

You mentioned mental health, greater funding for mental healthcare will be needed to resolve people’s mental health issues as well, would that be something that the Tories would commit to – improving mental health services?

“It’s in our manifesto that we are going to review and reform the system. If part of that requires investment in mental health services then that will be forthcoming and that is what this government has done.

“These things are not something where you can click your fingers and it will all be resolved, it will take time to set up the relevant mental health schemes. It will take time to reform the welfare system. By the end of the next parliament we should have a more targeted and nuanced system that ensures that everybody will get what they need but in a more efficient way, to ensure that as many people as possible are engaged in the workforce.”

A lot of people are worried about an expanded role of the private sector in the NHS, can you commit to opposing an expanded role for private healthcare in the NHS?

“No I won’t commit to opposing that. I think we need to tackle this properly when we talk about an expanded role for the private sector. My father was a doctor in the NHS, he worked full time for the NHS and in the evenings he ran a private clinic. The result of him doing so were lower waiting times in the NHS, more flexibility for patients. He was able to boost his income, and he paid tax on that income that went back into the system and helped the NHS boost further.

“I think there can be a role for the private sector alongside the public sector in the NHS. I strongly oppose this bogey-man idea that the private sector is a bad thing or that the state should have a complete monopoly on healthcare.

“I do agree with free at the point of use, I do agree with, of course, with the NHS – which is a fantastic institution. But simply having a positive and thriving private sector along side it, I think will strengthen the NHS and make it more accessible and better for everyone. So I would oppose the existence of the private sector, but equally I wouldn’t be in favour of privatising sectors of the NHS where services that are currently available at the point of use would now be charged for. But there is a combination I think that can work.”

Okay thank you. Onto electoral reform, according to some recent polls – you may not want to comment on recent polls – but it’s possible that the Tories might not even be able to form the opposition. As a a small party, would you support electoral reform and push for a change to proportional representation?

“No I don’t think proportional representation is a good idea. First and foremost, historically in the country we have had stable government on the basis of first past the post. A majority government which means we have been able to make clear, conscisive decisions quickly and efficiently and I strongly believe in that system.

“The first past the post system in this country goes back to everybody choosing their local champion, and that local champion coming together with the others and deciding what’s best for the country. Whilst that means that smaller views find it more difficult to elect a local champion, I actually think that that system of government worked very well. We had a referendum on alternative voting under the coalition and it failed, so I don’t think the British people want that either. I think our system works very well.

“I’m not going to comment on recent polls, but any party I think should focus on improving their support locally and focusing on local issues, rather than focusing on macro national trends which means then you don’t actually get any MPs. Ultimately when it comes down to the crunch, and I see this on the doorstep, people want to elect their local champion that understands their issues generally. Less people are bothered with what politician X is saying in X or Y constituency. They want to know, well are you going to save our hospital, are you going to make sure the schools are better funded in this area, and that’s what our system does.”

Okay thank you Andrew. So onto some environmental issues…How do the Tories plan to meet net zero [carbon emissions] by 2050 without any new green levies?

“The answer to achieving net zero isn’t all about green levies and taxation. It’s about encouraging green technologies and this government has a fantastic track-record on technology in this country. And we’re very well placed in this country to be a world-leader in that because we have a very well-educated population and a very hard-working population and a very innovative one.

“I think we should be focusing more on developing those technologies and exporting them all over the world rather than simply taxing people to pay more during a cost of living crisis to discourage then from using their petrol car compared to an electric car. So I don’t think the answer is green levies.

“The way the government is doing is, we are transitioning – we’re just doing it in a pragmatic way that doesn’t harm people unnecessarily in the meantime. We will be focusing on the technologies and we will be focusing a transition, but we will not be focusing on arbitrary targets like replacing boilers by date X or mandatory house insulation by date Y. It’s about being with people and bringing them with you on that journey to ensure we actually do achieve it.

“If you move too quickly and too hard on these issues, you actually push a lot of the public away and ultimately longer term it makes it more difficult to achieve. So I think we should be looking at this as a 25 year shoot, towards 2050 and not three-year issue.”

Locally, a big issue has been sewage in the Thames and the conditions of our Waterways. What do you think the solution is to the crisis with Thames Water. Do you think it’s fair that Thames Water would increase our bills during a cost of living crisis considering how they’ve performed as a company?

“I mean I think we do need an urgent and in-depth review of exactly how Thames Water has been operating, what it’s been doing. We have seen numerous signs coming through against Thames Water. I am shocked at some of the headlines I’ve read about Thames Water and as a company clearly they are in disarray.

“As a Conservative I would be in favour of trying to open that sector up to more competition because I think competition leads to improved services. Finding perhaps a way of doing that, a tender process or perhaps more competition. But I think in the first instance we do need an urgent review as to exactly what’s going on and why it’s going on and how it can be solved.”

What strengths can you bring personally to the role of an MP?

“I’m a trained barrister, I’ve spent my career advising people and representing them and giving them a voice in court and I’ll be able to do the same in Parliament. In my role as a barrister I’ve been self-employed so I understand very well on how to manage my diary, how to manage time to every facet of the job that’s required.

“I have a history of campaigning on national issues, when I was mugged with a machete two years ago in Chelsea I googled buy a machete online and I noticed on Amazon you could buy an 18” matte-black dragon slayer machete – and it said people who bought this item also bought a balaclava. I thought that was wrong, I set up a petition and the petition got a 140,000 signatures and the government then included machetes in their new lethal weapons bill.

“I have a proven track record of getting behind an issue, making change and I’ve got the work ethic and a skillset to be a good MP for the area.”

This is my final question, why should people vote for you and not vote for another candidate?

“People should vote for me because I’m young, I’m enthusiastic, I’m hardworking. I’ve got a huge amount of passion for the area, I support private business. I love all aspects of the area and as I say I’ve got the professional skillset and abilities to take this area forward.”