Notes from the General Election Hustings, June 6th 2017

Here are our notes from the General Election Hustings held at JK Banqueting Hall on June 6th.

The candidates:

  • Shaun Bailey - Conservatives
  • Ellie Reeves - Labour
  • John Russell - Liberal Democrats
  • Karen Wheller - Green Party
  • Hoong-Wai Cheah - UKIP
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Filling up fast at JK Banqueting Suite. We expect to begin in minutes.

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Introduction from the Candidates

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    I’m a father of two. I got involved in politics from my community work. I’m not particularly partisan in my politics - I’m more interested in people and how they live their daily lives. Tories are the only party with a realistic economic plan - the money needs to be raised for social policy. I spent my whole life representing the communities I’ve lived in. I’m not a local, but I will become a local and represent the people who elect me.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    Lived here for almost all of my life, and bringing up my family here. I will be proud to represent this area in Parliament. Thousands fought to help Lewisham Hospital - we will ensure our services do not come under threat again. We will create a National Care Service. People are rightly concerned about Brexit - we will guarantee the rights of 3M EU nationals living in the UK, and fight for employment and environmental rights. I will not vote against local interests.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Lived in Forest Hill for the last fifteen years, was a councillor 2006-2010. Experienced in the political arena. Worked on the rebuilding of Forest Hill pools, chair of a local charity Wider Horizons, working with 48K children, providing them with outdoor education. A hardworking local MP. 70% voted against Brexit - “the longest state suicide note in history” The Lib Dems will offer you a chance to reject Brexit altogether. Clearly-costed policies.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    I’m a volunteer zookeeper. I joined the Green Party through disillusionment with mainstream party policies. I’m a campaigner against privatisation of libraries, for the nationalisation of rail and for animal rights. I’m a socialist - I will work for the good of all. I believe that the EU debate was unfair - like the Lib Dems, we’d offer a 2nd referendum. We should celebrate cultural diversity and multiculturalism. Do not let anything divide us.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    Originally from Malaysia, studied engineering. Representing people who are disillusioned with politics, not big business. The only real candidate for Brexit. This a Labour stronghold - our candidate doesn’t need to do anything but will get her vote. But if you apply your vote elsewhere, she’ll have to work hard

How would you approach the challenges at Forest Hill School?

Lynley Oram

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    The cuts are a council issue. The council need to find a way to resolve this - they have withdrawn funding. They are spending £500K on an inquiry into their own affairs. Regarding education in general: the Tories will not cut the education budget - the Fairer Funding bill will not go ahead.
  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    Labour would put an extra £6.3bn into schools. I’ve met with the chair of the Forest Hill School Parents Action Group, and am chairing a meeting next week between the school and parents. If elected, I’ll write to sec. of state to request additional funding, and improve the terms of the FHS deficit.
  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Lots of parents are concerned about the cuts and about the Labour council’s actions. The lack of action by the council is wrong. The local authority needs to share responsibility for the deficit. We would invest £7bn in education, and protect pupil premium
  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    16 staff have been cut, 30 have resigned yesterday, GCSE options have been cut. The Green Party councillor has done his best to fight the cuts. We’d invest £7bn, and abolish OFSTED and SATS and increase real-term spending per pupil.
  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    I agree with Shaun - the council is responsible for funding. But the government has cut funding. UKIP is against cuts, and will increase the education budget - by £3.1bn. We will build more schools, including grammar and vocational schools.

How would you improve transport into the area, and how will you fund your measures?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    In favour of taking franchise away from Southern rail. But much of the problem is with strikes. Bakerloo should be expanded, but if we renationalise rail, we won’t be able to afford the extension. Moving the franchise means a better chance to renegotiate.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    Commuters suffer overcrowding and fare rises. We commit to nationalise the rail. I will bring suburban rail into TfL to get a better deal. Will fight to bring Bakerloo line into this constituency.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Public transport is extremely important. We have the highest rail fares in Central Europe. We’d take over the running of Southern and Govia. I have a long history of campaigning on local transport. Would not expand airports. We’d reduce prices for the young, and scrap diesel cars by 2025 (scrappage scheme).

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    Renationalise all public transport, esp. rail. Bring back British Rail. Re-regulate busses and invest. Free public transport for young, elderly, students and disabled. Oppose airport expansion and cancel HS2. Emissions taxes.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    We have no explicit policy on public transport. The franchise model is a mess. I’m in favour of govt taking back control. I have personal experience in the delays but we have to realistic - Labour think they can renationalise without cost

In light of recent events, with which party would we be safest?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    Conservative government has already given the budget for an extra 1900 security services staff. We need to support the security services, who are increasingly important. A lot of problems in Europe are residual of foreign policy.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    Tory austerity has made us less safe. Under Labour - 10K more police, 1000 more intelligence officers, 500 more border staff. Labour will renew Trident, but we would renew efforts for multilateral disarmament.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Complex problems. I pay tribute to those who run toward danger. There are issues around police cuts. There are issues around the number of armed police. We’d invest another £300M in police, but we may increase this in light of recent events.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    We’re pacifist, home defence army only. We’d scrap Trident. What’s the point in having it, with tinpot dictators in other countries? We’d reverse police cuts. We want police on the streets, not the army. Middle Eastern intervention has made us less safe. We’d negotiate and resolve issues diplomatically.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    UKIP understands that what causes attacks is not a single issue, it is complex. Partly because people haven’t been integrated into society. I’m an immigrant - I understand the importance of this. We have a policy, we are not sweeping the issue under the carpet. We’d put £600M extra into policing. We’d focus on improving social integration.

How will you ensure parity between mental and physical health services?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    We have a pledge to give parity to mental and physical health. I’ve been a youth worker for 25 years. I’ve seen the need for early support services. We need to talk to people about their mental wellbeing. We’ll put a record amount of money into the NHS. Regarding NHS recruitment: any immigration system post-Brexit should take into account the skills we need. Our present immigration system doesn’t offer this. We will advertise for the skills we need, and will also train our own, so we don’t overlook local talent.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    It’s an incredibly important issue. We’ll put £5bn into the NHS. We’re committed to mental health provision in our manifesto. There needs to be a level playing field. I’ve heard stories of children waiting a year for mental care services. People are nervous about lack of guarantees of right to remain for EU immigrants, which our NHS relies on. It’s crucial we retain the ability of people to come and work in our NHS.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    There is a disparity and it’s not good enough. We’ll put a penny on income tax to raise £6bn, and we are committed to ensure parity of care between mental and physical health. I would focus on care for young people - talking therapy should be available on the NHS. Key professions will suffer from hard Brexit - we will fight to keep our economy strong, with freedom of movement.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    The subject of mental health is important to me, I have aspergers syndrome. We’d close the NHS spending gap and end privatisation. We’d scrap the assessments in the benefits system, which cause undue stress. We’d guarantee EU immigrants right to stay, and we’d encourage more people here

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    Mental health is a complex issue that can’t be solved simply by relying on the NHS - it involves family issues. My own wife has suffered, so I understand the issues. We need more integration between mental and physical care, but that won’t solve the issues alone. We will invest £6bn. UKIP wants existing EU migrants to stay, and a points based system to ensure we get the skilled mental health professionals we need.

What would candidates do to improve employment opportunities?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    Support apprenticeships scheme. With the levy, it’s sustainable. We have to make work pay. We’ve taken 2M of the lowest earners out of tax altogether. We cannot employ people without a decent economy. Brexit vote has not crashed the economy. We have record levels of growth and employment. We need to support people’s training and access to work

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    We’d ensure we get the best deal from Brexit, retaining the benefits of free movement. We would ensure decent jobs - a £10/hr minimum wage. People in work are having to rely on benefits and food banks. We’d ban zero hours contracts. Making sure there are “decent jobs”

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Brexit is the #1 issue. Labour and Tories are in the same weak negotiation position. We believe a strong economy and growth are important. We’ll support small businesses and invest in infra projects and new housing - 300K new homes by 2020, and ultra-high-speed broadband. Crack down on zero hours contracts.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    We’d tax automation. We’d bring in a pilot of Universal Basic Income. We’d start a house building scheme. We’d increase min wage to £10/hr and abolish wage bands of young workers. RBS to start local people’s banks. Green investment bank.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    Small businesses are the backbone of the economy - we’d reduce business rates, and raise the personal allowance to take all min-wage earners out of tax. Zero-hours contracts - I’m not in favour of banning. Some people actually want them. We’d stop the abuse of them. Raising the min wage sounds good in theory - but raising min wage has disadvantageous side effects

Homelessness - what do you suggest?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    When I left uni I was homeless, and when I entered into youth work, I met many people affected by homelessness. We need more supportive housing, and ensure council will provide integrated care, particularly for Forces or people suffering mental health issues. Support longer tenancies, but careful with landlord intervention as the costs are passed on by landlords. Conservatives have pledged extra money for homeless housing.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    More and more families are finding themselves with no place to call home. We will build 1M more homes over the next parliament, 500K of them social housing. We will bring secured tenancies, 3yr should be the norm. I’d work with the Mayor of London to extend this where renters are vulnerable. More work should go into the causes of homelessness and put more money into social care.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Lib Dems plan to end homelessness. We’ll build 300K houses / year. Will invest in Housing Infrastructure Bank. Will clamp down on land-banking and second-home owners. I’ve worked with homeless people. Anyone could end up homeless - it’s not good enough that we have people living on our streets.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    I’ve personally been affected - I was forcibly evicted. We’d fight for rent controls and a “living rent” - abolish the bedroom tax. End Right to Buy. Stop people being declared intentionally homeless, and stop single adults being treated differently to couples. We’d build 100K affordable zero-carbon homes.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    We also have to tackle the causes, as well as the symptoms. UKIP agree with other parties on this, but we have an innovative plan to factory-building houses. Will build on brownfield sites.

Retaining Britons’ EU citizenship - what are your plans to support this?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    EU citizenship - once we’ve left, how will this affect our negotiation? As an aside, we’re talking about the EU as if it’s the only way we can convene with other European countries.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    We’d guarantee rights of Brits in the EU and EU nationals in the UK. I consider myself a citizen of the EU. I was on an EU-funded program and studied and worked in Italy. I will ensure that these programs are available to others.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Individual citizens maintaining rights is not as good as retaining membership - we’ll give you that as an option. Rights come from the EU, not our government. Citizens would pay a small fee to retain EU passports - it’s a second-best option to being part of the EU

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    I identify as “White European” - I lobby parliament for an EU citizenship scheme. Want to guarantee rights for EU citizens in the UK and freedom of movement, guarantee the right to live, work and study in the EU.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    EU citizenship screams that the EU wants to be the new USA… or new USSR - they won’t succeed in that. EU migrants should have a Visa. EU citizenship for Brits - a sneaky way by Eurocrats to undermine our sovereignty.

Taxation and costings

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    Labour’s policies aren’t costed - they don’t account for pension liabilities. The former Labour govt took borrowing and used it for revenue projects. Corporate tax must be low to retain the record employment levels achieved under Tory govt. Keep people on low wages out of the tax system altogether.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    No tax rises for 95% of people. Highest earners will be asked to pay “a little bit more,” amounting to approx £80 extra in tax per month for someone earning £90K. Those at the top have become richer, while others have been squeezed.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    We need to invest more in our country - there needs to be a balance on investment and tax. We’ll eliminate deficit by 2020. Labour and Tory plans do not add up (according to IFS). Under Labour we’ll suffer a hard Brexit - economically damaging for us. Will impair ability for Labour to invest the money they’ve promised.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    Robin Hood tax on financial transactions - raising £20bn. Reinstate highest rate of top income tax. Wealth tax. More HMRC funding. Progressive Inheritance tax. Remain in Single Market. Keep freedom of movement.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    We can’t just keep taxing everything - most UKIP funding will come from cancelling HS2. We are borrowing money to give away to foreign governments and we don’t keep track of how it’s spent - this needs to stop. We’d increase personal allowance. If we raised corporation tax, corporations will leave, hurting jobs.

Your one proactive policy in this constituency for young people?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    The £3.25bn already offered by the Tories to London for house-building will help young people find a place to live - the amount of business and jobs this will generate will be phenomenal. This money has already been given.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    We’ll abolish tuition fees from September, which will raise aspiration and people’s ability to realise their potential.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Opposing Brexit. 80% of young people voted against it. They’ll suffer under it. We’ll tackle dirty air and offer a scrapage scheme for diesel.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    I am a young person. I fall in the 18-24 bracket. We’ll lower voting age to 16. We’ll scrap min wage age bands.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    We will support STEM subjects at university - these are the skills our country need. We’d make tuition free for these.

The NHS is incredibly inefficient - how will you ensure your NHS spend is efficient?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    Manifesto pledge on record NHS spend. Capital investment that works for society we have now and into the future

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    Labour would repeal the Health and Social Care Act, which led to privatisation. Too much fragmentation, too much time on restructuring. Need more joined-up care. Need to recruit more midwives and frontline staff. Create a National Care Service - a “cradle to grave” service.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    NHS is largest employer in world, second to Chinese govt. There must be efficiency. It’s not integrated and is underfunded. Problems with past IT contracts - and govt interferes too much. We need to properly fund, integrate and trust healthcare professionals. Preventative healthcare is also missing.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    One of the biggest causes of inefficiency is privatisation and outsourcing. We’d reverse this. We’d re-integrate mental and social care. We’d sort out the funding gap. We’d stop the top-down re-org.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    Both my inlaws work in the NHS - I appreciate the question - the NHS is inefficient. Managers need to be made accountable - a licensing scheme would be put in. Nationalising doesn’t necessary improve efficiency - neither does privatisation.

How are your policies sustainable - can you deliver?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    There’s a difference between a spend and an investment. HS2 is an investment. Keeping corp tax down ensures our access to employment. Theresa May hasn’t ruled out a tax rise - we agree with the Lib Dem manifesto on tax honesty. Labour has no economic history we want to repeat - they are a step back into the 70s.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    I’m proud of my manifesto, and our commitments are fully costed. 5% of highest earners will pay more tax, and corp tax cuts will be reversed. We have one of the lowest rates in Europe. This can change. Tax avoidance crackdown and financial transaction tax.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    Trust in politicians is in decline. Lib Dems are clear - we will spend more, and we will tax more, with money hypothecated for the NHS. We’re clear and straightforward on our policy promises. I’m a person of my word. Trust in politicians is important. This community hasn’t experienced a hard-working MP - we need one.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    The Green Party understands our current manifesto will have a short-term cost. We’d invest in the future. The £800M is worth it for the future of our economy. And consider environmental costs. We must find money to avoid this in the future

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    We want to work for the non-voters - those who aren’t interested in politics anymore. We have costed our manifesto. We’re realistic. We’ll run a deficit until 2019, and then will run a net surplus.

How will you address London’s increasing air traffic noise?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    I would support the campaign to fight extra flights from City Airport. Heathrow is on the wrong side of the country - they’re asking us to pay for the cost of their business - Gatwick is a better option.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    I support the campaign against City Airport expansion. I’m acutely aware of local air travel noise. Unconvinced by the case for expansion of Heathrow. Not the right part of London.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    My party is clear - we’ll oppose Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted expansion. We prefer regional hub airports. Air traffic noise is linked to many health issues.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    I live close to Biggin Hill airport. I oppose any form for airport expansion. We’d raise taxes on air travel and impose noise limits.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    We don’t have a policy on that. Being an MP would help me put pressure on the government to deal with this. The issue is a difficult one because increased air transport opens up economic opportunities. Somebody has to pay the price of hosting this.

Climate change - what would you do to ensure future generations are protected?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    Electrify bus fleet. Charging network. Subsidise electric cars so people can afford them. Reduce packaging and waste. Retrofit old boilers in London - improve insulation - improve our currently-low roof solar uptake. I’m an asthmatic - for me pollution is a personal issue. We can’t wait on this.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    We commit to ensure 60% of UK energy is zero-carbon / renewable by 2030. There are hotspots of pollution locally, we will introduce a new Clean Air Act to tackle rise in air pollution. I will work with Mayor of London to ensure all busses and private hire vehicles don’t run on diesel. Promote walking and cycling. Get people out of cars. Invest in public transport. Put rail in TfL control.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    The environment has been the missing issue in this election. I work with an environmental charity, taking 48K children outside into the wider environment. We’ll provide a diesel scrapage scheme. 60% of electricity on renewables by 2020. Zero waste act.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    It’s in our name. We’ll maintain all environmental protection laws from the EU. Ban fracking (I have campaigned against it on a local level). End oil / gas / coal subsidies. Protect green belt. Protect areas of natural beauty. Protect marine areas. Encourage building of low carbon homes, solar panels on roofs.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    I’m a scientist and studied environmental issues as an engineer. Green energy sources aren’t necessarily green - wind farms kill birds. They damage aquatic environments. Solar subsidises mean we’re importing cheap panels from China, where they don’t care about environmental concerns. Subsidies are not the long-term solution. We must encourage tech to develop first.

Developing youth services - do you have any policies?

  • Shaun Bailey (Conservatives)
    Knife crime is a consequence of families in need of support. CAM services are a powerful tool to tackle this. Schools should offer youth club infrastructure for free. Offer new parent support. I used to run a single parent class - 200 people. I learnt we need to support parents -not just of babies- but of teenagers.

  • Ellie Reeves (Labour)
    Cuts to youth services are a serious issue - we’d put more money in. Youth clubs etc need more funding. More youth workers. I would fight for local investment.

  • John Russell (Liberal Democrats)
    We will invest in youth services. I volunteered for over a decade in youth services and have worked with a number of charities. Neglecting youth is a false economy.

  • Karen Wheller (Green Party)
    We would put £1bn in youth services. Invest in youth clubs, reproductive health clinics. Encourage participation in democracy.

  • Hoong-Wai Cheah (UKIP)
    No explicit policy. I personally have strong views - I’m an air cadet and am involved in church youth club - gives families a break from boisterous teenagers - does wonders for children too.

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Parting speech by Jim Dowd MP:

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