It’s about our future relationship with Europe – but much more besides
Here in Westminster North, electors voted to ‘remain’ by a margin of more than two to one. Since then local people have never stopped expressing their concerns to me- about the risk to jobs, businesses and prosperity of a ‘hard Brexit’ or, worse, ending up in 2 years with no deal at all, facing tariffs and other trade barriers with our nearest neighbours and biggest trade partner. I think Brexit- and in particular the most extreme and damaging version now being pushed- out of the single market, out of the customs union- is bad for our economy and our country. I understand, too, the reasons that drove many people to vote ‘leave’- but of course no-one, whichever side they were on last year, voted to be poorer as a result.
Many people have been horrified by the plight of EU residents here and Britons living in Europe, who have built their lives on a foundation that’s now been removed from under them. These people should not become ‘bargaining chips’ in the EU negotiations. They deserve to have their positions settled as a matter of urgency. Sadly, there has also been a rise in hate crime and intolerance since last year; totally out of keeping with our values as an open, safe and diverse city, and that is something we can unite against and declare wholly unacceptable.
I voted against the triggering of the Article 50 Bill in Parliament because I was not prepared to accept the risks that Brexit poses for local people, who had, after all, decisively rejected this outcome.
Since the referendum I have also been supporting the case for:
- Maintenance of barrier-free access to the single market;
- Retaining all the rights – workers’, environmental and human – we currently enjoy as members of the EU;
- The rights of EU residents in this country;
- A close, collaborative future partnership with the EU;
- A meaningful vote on the final deal at the end of the Article 50 negotiations- not a ‘take it or leave it’ vote which is no real choice
The Tories used their Commons majority to vote down our amendments to the Article 50 Bill, but I will continue to press these demands and to oppose a hard Brexit.
Let be me clear, if the deal which will be negotiated over the coming 2 years does not deliver for the people of this country I will vote against it.
I’m willing to fight this election on the question of Europe and the crucial importance of not allowing what happens next to be waved through Parliament by an anti-European Conservative party.
But I also want it to be about more than that.
A society such as ours should be able to guarantee a decent quality of life for all and to make the investment- in educating our young people as much as in homes and transport- which will lay the foundations for the future. Of course, as the Conservatives have already threatened, turning us into a global tax haven and slashing protection for workers and consumers will permanently cut our ability to deliver decent services and support for the vulnerable. We must not go down that path. But even before we face any such choices, there are still decisions we can make about which way we want to go as a country.
Spending cuts hit schools for the first time in decades
Government plans to move education funding away from London, together with a funding squeeze overall, will take £7 million out of Westminster school budgets. Not every school is equally hard hit but many primary and secondary schools will lose huge sums. Westminster secondary school heads have written to me to warn, “many of the gains made in Westminster Schools will be at risk”.
London’s deepening housing crisis
Homelessness has risen 130% since 2010. That was not inevitable – in the previous ten years under Labour it fell by three quarters. But this is only the worst symptom of the housing crisis, which sees developers building luxury blocks for sale overseas, while local people cannot afford to rent or buy anything in the borough.
The government will not build affordable homes, will not give meaningful help to lower income people seeking to get onto the housing ladder and will not tackle the high rents and low standards in the private rented sector. All around we can see evidence of luxury flats under construction whilst long-term residents, including many doing the work that keeps the city going, are being priced out.
Our health and social care services
This has been the worst winter for the NHS in many years, as it suffers the biggest financial squeeze in its history. The Imperial Hospital Trust was deeply in deficit in 2016, and I am hearing more and more stories of lengthening waits and cancellations. The deep cuts to social care for elderly and disabled people – down by a third in Westminster – are trapping people in hospitals who should be able to be cared for at home, and this has backed up into problems across the whole hospital service.
And there are lots of specific local issues too.
As your MP I have never stopped campaigning and assisting local people with their concerns. In the last year alone I have responded to over 6000 problems or policy enquiries. And in the last two years I have worked on issues from the threatened closure of St John’s Wood Post Office to the ending of all council funding for Westminster’s youth service and after-school clubs, from fly-tipping to air quality, from basement excavations to the impact of short-lets and from support for our Safer Neighbourhood Police Teams to help for people facing the loss of disability benefits.
I’ll be out talking to residents from now till polling day, but you don’t have to wait until I knock on your door, though. Let me know about what matters most to you – I’ll be pleased to hear from you!
Karen Buck MP
Promoted by Andy Whitley on behalf of Karen Buck, both at 4g Shirland Mews, W9