Post-election article for the CNJ

May 21, 2015 at 2:41 pm / by

I recently wrote this article for the Camden New Journal – “Labour campaign started a real political conversation“:

“After two years of campaigning and over a decade of working with local organisations, it is a privilege to write for the CNJ as the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn.

Even though Camden returned two Labour MPs, it was a sad night for Labour overall. In London, we gained seven new seats, from both the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, but the Labour message didn’t get through to the rest of the country.

As Labour selects a new leader, I will be listening to people from across Britain to see why they felt they couldn’t vote for Labour and address the disillusionment felt about politicians generally.

It is striking that national turnout, even in an election expected to be so close, remained far below the levels seen between 1945 and 1997. Meanwhile, the paltry increase in voting since 2010 was largely down to records in Scotland – in England the increase on 2015 barely reached 0.3%. Millions more voter voices will be threatened this year when the Government’s plans on Individual Voter Registration come in to effect. As well as the budget deficit, Parliament must also focus on the political deficits of vision, trust and authenticity.

However, I take comfort in the fact that Labour’s election campaign started the political conversation about the need to increase funding for the NHS, expand free childcare and raise the minimum wage, leading the Conservatives to launch corresponding pledges in response. These are real policies that will make a real difference to people’s lives. They also reflect issues that came up repeatedly as I met residents over the last two years and before that as a councillor.

As a backbench opposition MP, my job will be to hold the government to account. On the NHS, this must translate into tangible priorities for Hampstead and Kilburn: reductions in hospital waiting times for my constituents, local GP surgeries remaining open, and NHS funding commitments fulfilled.

As a former councillor, I am only too aware of the savage cuts local councils like ours have had to face in the last 5 years. I was heartened to see that council leaders from across the political spectrum have come together to make a plea to the Government not to cut local Government budgets any further.

These cuts are easy for central Government to make and rarely feature in the national headlines, as they take time to filter through to specific services. But these cuts are often dangerously short-sighted and lead to harm and higher costs in the future. Further cuts to social care would increase pressure on the NHS. Cuts to recycling would damage momentum in sustainable living. Cuts to community activities and sport would reduce opportunities for young people. I will argue strongly on these issues, having witnessed the dramatic impact on public services at first hand and having had to work around 25% cuts when I was in charge of a £22 million budget.

As a constituency MP I have many priorities, but let me highlight housing and HS2. I want to engage closely with the councils on housing and explore what can be done to support tenants that does not require legislative change at the national level. On HS2, I will push for a Westminster Hall debate so that this flawed development scheme is thoroughly scrutinised and the case for changing it can be properly heard.

But my top priority is to work for the people of Hampstead and Kilburn. I want anyone to feel able to contact me, whether it is to highlight their perspective on an issue, to share a story, to ask for help or simply to make me aware of an event or an organisation. The two easiest routes are by email ( or by visiting my constituency office at 288 Kilburn High Road (0203 441 7676).”