Hammersmith & Chiswick parliamentary candidate: Labour

Images: The Labour Party’s Parliamentary candidate for Hammersmith & Chiswick Andy Slaughter MP, Labour Party logo

“My way of doing politics is very hands-on, I want to connect with people, I want to listen to their problems whatever they are”

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. Last on the ballot paper will be one of west London’s longest-serving representatives, the current Labour MP for Hammersmith, Andy Slaughter.

If the polls are to be believed, Andy will be a shoe-in with a predicted super-majority for the Labour Party, which is led by Sir Keir Starmer. But Andy has inherited Chiswick, which in 2022 elected eight Conservative councillors out of a total of nine, meaning this could be a more challenging constituency for him to win.

Not one to always stick to the party line, Andy has been  sacked from the Shadow Cabinet twice. The first was over his position on Brexit under Jeremy Corbyn (he supported the UK remaining a member of the EU’s single market) and the second was over Palestine under Keir Starmer (Andy voted for the SNP’s ceasefire motion – undermining the Labour leadership’s position).

Among labour’s manifesto pledges are securing 40,000 more NHS appointments for patients and reducing waiting lists, growing the economy to increase living standards and building 300,000 new homes per year. Other issues Andy is concerned about include Hammersmith Bridge, Charing Cross hospital and Thames Water dumping raw sewage into our rivers and waterways.

The Chiswick Calendar’s interview with Andy Slaughter – The Labour Party

Labour’s manifesto has been described as quite pro business – how does Labour plan to balance support for businesses while ensuring a better deal for workers?

“Labour has, the clue is the name, the close association over many decades with the trade union movement. It clearly has had the interests of working people at the core of its beliefs. In a way, that has become more important because we now have much less secure employment than we used to have and everything from pensions, to terms and conditions, the gig economy and so forth.

“So that is a very important part of the programme, but as you’ll have noticed from the way the manifesto was presented by Keir, the country is a dire economic hole. It’s not the problem, I’m sure we’ll go on to talk about the health service and so on, but the starting point is that the conservatives have wrecked the economy.

“That sort of turns politics on its head, because the Conservatives have always said that they were the party of business, that they were the party of financial responsibility. No-one can doubt now that that is not true. I’m not just talking about the Liz Truss budget, you think of Boris Johnson “F-business” and all these things. They have effectively torn up any responsibility to wealth creation and growth in the economy.

“Because of the bad state of the economy that they’ve left, over the medium term – one but hopefully more than one term of a Labour government – this is about growth. How do we make people more prosperous? And a lot of that will come from the business sector. The less a Labour government is in lockstep with business…”

How will a Labour government grow the economy? What specific policies would Labour implement to grow the economy?

“To do that, you’re right to ask that question, that’s not just one tool. That goes across every government department and every policy so you could start with say, planning, or you could start with energy. Whatever issue you want to talk about. The priority within that will be how do you get growth?

“Now there are other priorities there as well so if you’re talking about planning, houses and planning, we’ve got a housing crisis in this country, of affordability, of security and of housing conditions. But if you can get the country building, if you can build those million and a half homes that creates huge numbers of jobs, it regenerates areas. It does what government should do, which is create the climate for individual entrepreneurs and businesses to work.

“If you look at energy, by creating Great British Energy, what we’re doing is we’re pursuing that green agenda in the a way that no government has before. It’s a very radical proposal. But it’s also again about those factories that are producing the batteries which go on to off-shore wind. So you create jobs but you do so in an intelligent way and you do so in collaboration with the private sector.”

Let’s stay on housing for a moment Andy, so as you said housing is obviously a critical issue especially in London, what are your plans to address the housing crisis in our constituency specifically?

“Well the housing crisis is across the country and over the time that I’ve been an MP which is nearly 20 years now indeed and a councillor before that. Housing has been the most endemic problem that we’ve had. The reason for that is that if affects every sector, so if you look at social housing, we’ve actually seen a decline in social housing over time, not enough is being built by whatever means and that has to be a priority.

“The Mayor of London is doing some of that, the individual councils, Hounslow, Hammersmith are doing that. But it’s such a big task, you need some of that stimulus from central government. That can come from the planning system, it can come from freeing land, it can come from ensuring that property is not sold overseas and left empty in that way. There’s a variety of ways of doing that. But in terms of who you’re catering for, it’s important with housing to consider who you’re catering for, you’re catering for different groups of people. You’re catering for young people who want to get on the housing ladder, you’re also catering for families, you’re catering for people on low-income for who, in somewhere like West London, social housing is the only affordable means.

“…This is perhaps the biggest growth in the last 5-10 years is the crisis private rented sector, where you’ve got both insecurity and poor conditions, but you’ve also got people being effectively priced out. That doesn’t just affect young people now, that affects families, if you look at schools and the huge falls in numbers on school rolls, a lot of that is families not being able to live in London and having to move out.

So Sadiq Khan numerous times has mentioned rent controls, are rent controls a more likely thing to happen with a labour government?

“The phrase rent controls covers a multitude of options, for example first of all a lot of people want to talk about no-fault evictions and we are going to get rid of those. But if you just get rid of no-fault evictions then landlords, if they want to, and obviously there are good landlords as well as landlords who want to play the system, they could just put rents up to a level that was unaffordable.

“So the are different ways to address rental issues, for example you can have longer-term contracts. Longer-term contracts which have clauses within them which limit the amount of rent-rises. I don’t think you’re going to see, certainly not in the near future, rent controls that you have in some other countries where they are established. I.e., that a landlord is going to be told: you cannot at any stage raise rent because I think you would see a flight from the sector then that would cause even more problems than you have. But in terms of looking at rent increases within contractual periods, I think that’s an idea that should be looked at.”

Right. So onto transport, the Labour manifesto seems, let’s say, “pro-car” rather than prioritising other forms of transport like public transport, buses and tubes and trains, how would a Labour government improve transport links in London and also reduce congestion?

“In a way on the car issue, Labour have unfairly I think been characterised as anti-motorist and we’re certainly not. A lot of people rely on their cars, people who need to get to work at certain times of day when there isn’t public transport, people who have mobility problems things of that kind.

“But only about half, less than half, have access to a car even in Hammersmith and Chiswick parts of which are quite prosperous. So public transport has to be the priority. Everything from HS2, which is still being built in Shepherd’s Bush, to bus services. Now actually, I think that Sadiq Khan has done a very good job on that, if you look the bus network we have in London, most other cities in the UK let alone rural areas will be extremely envious of that.

“We have had quite a lot of investment in the Tube system, that has dried up because of what happened with covid and because of the political games the government were playing with TfL at the time, but if you look at say the Piccadilly Line is a good example and is important to my prospective constituents, we are getting the new trains and that will increase capacity on the Piccadilly Line hugely, we do not have the moment have the new signalling funded – that will make an even bigger contribution.

“If you did those two things, you will have set up the Piccadilly Line for decades to come, and one of the benefits of that is we could get the Piccadilly Line stopping at Turnham Green. But you need the money for signalling, so one of the things we will be pressing a new government from a Hammersmith & Chiswick perspective is how do you get that further investment, because it always pays back. You look at the success of any of the big capital investments back to the Jubilee line extension but obviously more recently the Elizabeth line. It’s always a no-brainer when these schemes are completed… not only do they make travel a lot easier but the regenerate the areas they go through.

“I hope we will see Crossrail 2 for example, which is the missing line in London. I’ve always been a support of HS2 and I’m glad we are going ahead despite all the terrible shenanigans the Tories got up to with it I am glad we are going ahead with line to Birmingham.

“When there’s an immediate crisis, when there are so many claims on public finances, you still have to, and I think this is a lot of what Keir’s talked about with in terms of mission-driven government, you’ve got to keep your eyes on the prize. Which is over a period of time, over 5-10 years, actually begin to turn the economy around, begin to modernise the economy in all the ways we’ve talked about.”

How would a Labour government speed up the opening of Hammersmith Bridge? What interim solutions are viable such as pedicabs?

“The short answer is: current government funding has sabotaged the reopening. They have sat on Hammersmith & Fulham’s business plan and refused to meet local MPs for 18 months. They won’t pay more than a third of the cost against 80% plus for strategic road schemes elsewhere. Nor will they allow Hammersmith & Fulham to levy a toll on commuter traffic to save local residents from footing the bill. Their ‘Taskforce’ never meets.

“We believe a Labour government will reach an agreement on terms and I have raised the issue with the Shadow Transport Secretary. There is a viable scheme and willingness from both boroughs and the GLA to restore the historic bridge.”

Onto the NHS now, obviously the NHS is under significant pressure, how is Labour going to insure that healthcare services are adequately funded and accessible?

“Again there are short term priorities and I think we all know where they are. The biggest one is waiting lists, there’s something obscene about people who are in pain, people who’s movements are restricted but whose economic activity is also restricted – they can’t get out and get a job because they’re simply waiting months and sometimes now years. The sad truth is of course that has affected some cancer patients and people with other serious illnesses as well, and people can die waiting. They can die because the ambulance doesn’t arrive, they can die because they’re waiting in an ambulance if they’re waiting to be seen.

“I think everyone now knows because we all have direct experience of the NHS, if not seen immediately then our family and friends do, just how bad a condition the NHS is. And yet we want the NHS to succeed, and we admire the people who work in it hugely particularly as they’re working in difficult conditions.

“So getting waiting lists down is a priority, improving social care so we are stopping people staying in hospitals at great expense but also in unsuitable conditions but also stopping people who do need emergency care getting into it. That is freeing up the system in that way.

“We have had locally, and this affects Chiswick as well as Hammersmith & Fulham, we have had the textbook examples of how not to do it with the way the Tories have treated Charing Cross Hospital. Because to try and demolish, to destroy a major teaching hospital in that way with 360 beds and an A&E department, and then they were forced to backdown because of the public opposition to that, to then defund that hospital? Those are acts of sabotage of the NHS. They’re not just being negligent or not paying attention to it. That would have wrecked the healthcare of West London. I’m glad to see that Wes Streeting has pledged the money to Charing Cross to ensure it will be rebuilt under a Labour government.”

Right. Onto environmental issues now. Labour has come under a lot of stick for ditching the £28 billion green pledges. Do you think Labour are radical enough to meet the demand of the climate crisis?

“I do. The 28 billion, with what I talked about earlier, you’re trying to balance being radical, making change, and making sure you don’t make unfunded promises. There is now a pragmatism in there because gearing up from the terribly low base at the moment to projects of that size would always take time. I think all these radical elements are there and if they need to be expanded in years to come when the economy begins to grow then they can be.

“If you look at onshore wind, which the conservatives had a boycott on, they just won’t have onshore wind which is a massive producer. A lot more offshore wind, including floating offshore wind which is very innovative technology, that is an alternative to new oil and gas licences the Tories would have of course have granted which I think says all you need to know about their priorities.

“But also the fact that we want manufacturing I think creates jobs, regenerates areas, think electric batteries, massive steps up in terms of electric vehicles, lowering pollution in that way but also cleaner transport, policy on aviation, what we do with Heathrow for example which I’ve had a lifelong opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.

“All those elements are important, but so is the very domestic. So is making sure people’s homes are energy efficient. We’re still going through an energy crisis, poorer people have had to decide whether to eat or to heat their homes. That should never be a choice but it’s obviously much worse when we have some of the worst housing in Europe in terms of lack of energy efficiency.

“So those are all the priorities, what I like about Labour policy is that it’s very pragmatic. It’s saying rather than talk in general terms about global warming, let’s get on with and do what this country can do to make sure it’s contribution to net zero, but also in the process we improve people’s quality of life.”

An environmental issue locally would be the issue if sewage in our rivers, from what I could understand Labour said they would “hold water companies to account”… But to me that just reads as fines and perhaps strengthening the power of the regulator. Does Labour have any specific plans to rid our rivers of sewage?

“This is something I care very personally about, I’m putting my newsletter out in about and hour and it’s got lovely picture of me canoeing down the Thames last weekend with the Chiswick Canoe Club. I’m afraid I got a very up-close look at what the Thames is like. Then we got out and we did a clear up on the banks of the Thames of the detritus and the pretty disgusting things that had flowed up there.

“We are very close, Hammersmith & Chiswick, we are very close to the river, we live with the river we want it to succeed. The good news is that the Thames Tideway Tunnel, or super-sewer as it’s called, which will come on screen very shortly, will remove a very very high percentage and even though it only goes up as far as Hammersmith it will have beneficial effects but it’s not the only solution. But the fact that we pushed ahead, in the face of quite a lot of opposition from some Conservatives on building that – it’s a four and a half billion pound project – but it will make a transformational difference to the Thames. I think as you know now there are many outlets, most by Hammersmith Bridge, where raw sewage comes out every week not just with heavy rainfall. That has been utter negligence and cynicism by the water companies.

“So you’re right that we need to crack down on them. How that is done has to depend on how they respond. They should be under no illusion that they’re not going to get away with it. You saw the announcement recently, there has actually been thousands more illegal dumping there in the last two to three years in dry periods. So this is not them incompetently not maintaining their sewers- though it is true that they do that we have had sewer flooding, burst water mains and their whole infrastructure hasn’t been modernised – this is them breaking the law in order to save themselves money and we know that a lot of that money would have gone into shareholder profits or indeed into massive salaries paid into their executives.”

Would you consider pushing for criminal charges if they have broken the law? 

“…Well by definition yes if the law has been broken then people should be prosecuted. I mean these are serious offences, it’s not like committing robbery in the street but people are harmed and people die through polluted water in that way. It’s partly that it’s such a disgusting thing to do, partly that it’s a complete dereliction of their duties, it’s also deeply cynical. They know what they’re doing and they know why they’re doing it and that’s to benefit themselves, you look at Thames Water who are probably the worst offender at the time on this. It’s been sold and re-sold, profit taking out of the company going to shareholders and nothing being done to the sewage network.

“I’ve had people in my current constituency since I have been their MP have seen their homes flooded three times with sewage.”

Are you afraid Labour are not socially liberal enough to gain votes from certain groups this time around? Other political parties that have moved a bit more to the left in this election such as the Liberal Democrats and Green Party – is Labour neglecting those voters?

“No, I am trying to think what issues we are not socially liberal on… In many of the hot-button debates you hear on radio phone-ins and things, I think a lot of people in West London are thinking well what’s the problem here? The priority has to be that the individual has to live the best life that they can and to express themselves however they want to do that and to have the freedom to do that, whether that’s a freedom to speak or to live their life a particular way, the only restriction on they have a detrimental effect on other people.”

I’m just thinking of a couple of key commitments around trans rights, specifically with the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party they have something similar. I feel like Labour isn’t as full-throated as it used to be with regards to specific topics like that [LGBT+ rights].

“That’s what I mean so there’s a slight puzzlement in that sense and it’s what I meant when I made the comment I just did. For people who are trans, it’s a small number of people, but for them it is absolutely fundamental not just how they live their lives but to their being, to they themselves. And in the same way that in the past, other minorities in society have been mistreated and we’ve had to learn to treat people decently and fairly and equally in that way. That’s exactly what we, I hope I do do, or certainly should do in relation to people who are trans.

“When people raise issues about practical issues, about prisons, about single-sex spaces and things like that. That’s all possible to accommodate. It’s all in the law already, it’s all in the Equality Act. I sometimes feel that people are almost inventing barriers, if you see what I mean. When actually, if you take a pragmatic view, but you also take a humanitarian and sympathetic view, all of these problems go away.

“We have much, much bigger, in fact some of the things we have been talking about so far, the virtual collapse – the hollowing out of or public services, the cost of living crisis, what’s happened to the economy because of Liz Truss and others. Those are the really difficult issues that are going to take years to resolve.

“I feel that because the Conservatives know that they’ve screwed up so badly, they have been, sort of, diverting people onto these culture wars issues or onto small boats or other issues like that. Things which actually are solvable by government, or by government working with partners, and [the Tories] almost want to keep those issues bubbling along because they don’t want to talk about the economy, they don’t want to talk about people’s standards of living, they don’t want to talk about the NHS.”

I suppose the elephant in the room as well is the impact Brexit has had on the economy, Labour are notably not as vocal on that as other parties might like them to be o the issue

“Well I think my position is pretty clear on that, I think Brexit was disaster. I think that what Labour has said in the manifesto is that Brexit the Tories dreamed up and put into place has been done very dishonestly and incompetently. We can have a much better and much closer relationship with our European partners. I don’t think anybody can deny that, because it’s about trading with the major trading bloc on your doorstep, which is so important.

“People are suffering in all sorts of ways. Small businesses are suffering because of the import regulations, people want to move around to where they were retiring or to go work. They’re having all sorts of bureaucratic problems which they never thought they’ve have. So I think the firs thing to do is, pragmatically, to start unwinding all of that. Where we go after that, we have to be led what public opinion says on this because I think politicians have mucked up on Brexit.

“First we had the referendum, when I think people were grossly misled, but nevertheless you had a result. Again, Boris Johnson, who’s track record we now know – but should have known at the time – who won the 2019 election by largely selling a false promise on Brexit. In order for us to go back and say to the general public, ‘Do you want us to re-address the issue of our relationship, constitutional, legal as well as economic with Europe?’ I think the initiative on that has to come from the British people. I think that’s the way public opinion is moving, and it’s moving quite quickly now. People have realised they were taken for a ride and they didn’t get what they wanted and they were never going to get what people like Farage promised from that.

“It’s a really sad episode in our nation’s history, to think of all the things which we didn’t have control over, the wars abroad and Covid which created their own crises, Brexit of our own making as a country.”

Why should people vote for you and not for another party?

“I’ve been an MP for long time now, some people say too long, but I have got a lot of experience. I’ve run the local authority, I spent 20 years as a councillor. My first seat was in Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush which actually bordered on the northern part of Chiswick, Bedford Park and around there.  Now I’ve been 15 years in Hammersmith, this is where I’ve always lived it’s the only place, area that I wanted to represent. Chiswick is somewhere I know very well, it’s a fantastic place to live and work and it just is a perfect job.

“So for me the question is easy, for people who are voting for me I think they need to make their own mind up. For I’m out there every down, particularly in Chiswick because people know me quite well in Hammersmith. I was out in Green Days at the weekend, I go out on the river at the weekends and I’ve been doing my street stall in the high street. I’ve been knocking on people’s doors in all of the Chiswick wards over the past few months.

“My way of doing politics is very hands-on, I want to connect with people I want to listen to their problems whatever they are… so that’s what I’ve always done in my previous roles and that’s what I’ll continue to do for Hammersmith & Chiswick. I hope to be part of Labour government that will make all the changes we have talked about in this interview, but my priority is always representing the area I am elected for.”