Oh Wow, it’s Jeremy!
by N.C. Browne
About 100 members of the two local constituencies: Richmond Park and Twickenham Labour Party met with MPs Clive Lewis and Siobhan McDonagh in Parliament’s Portcullis House on Monday 25 January 2016. Such was the popularity that we were moved into a large meeting room unfortunately named: The Thatcher Room. The two MPs talked, discussed and answered questions. Then there was a collective intake of breath as Jeremy Corbyn arrived unexpectedly. He was obviously pleased by the enthusiastic welcome and he spoke about his current priorities nationally and in London.
He focussed on three main areas, housing, wages and tax, while emphasising that the Party must start to develop policy now, rather than beginning to write a document nearer the 2020 election. The views and priorities of members must also feed into the production of the manifesto.
He started with the current housing crisis. He referred to London in particular and mentioned the inevitable social cleansing that happens when ordinary working people can’t afford to live in the capital. Existing council housing is unable to cope with the numbers needing provision. There must be more provided and it must be sustainable and also built to high ecological standards.
There are significant, enormous building plots that will be coming onto the market in London in the next few years. (Earls Court was mentioned) The opportunity to house working families will be completely lost if these developments only offer expensive properties. Plus, many of these would then be sold off plan, often to wealthy non-British residents.
He illustrated this greed-based trend with an example from his own constituency. A property developer was or still is building on land previously owned by Transport for London ,TFL. He was proudly describing the wonderful provision that was being incorporated into his development. The developer went silent when Corbyn asked how many people from the Council waiting list would be housed there.
Relevantly Corbyn asked a question at Prime Minister’s Questions on 27 January 2016. His query came from “Jeff” who wanted to know whether, like Google, he could also make a tax agreement and offer to pay what he wanted. Corbyn obviously already had this PMQ’s question in mind because he told R&T Labour Party, that working to change these disparities is also one of his priorities. As is the unbalanced labour market where a Chief Executive can take away £5m a year, while at the other end of the company others struggle on zero-hours contracts and low pay.
Because Corbyn was talking to a London group he focussed on the mayoral elections which are a current and pressing issue for us. Obviously housing and wages are important in the capital but Corbyn also mentioned pollution – an interesting and rather novel issue. We hear that pollution is increasing but it has had very little publicity and hasn’t been pinpointed as a political issue in this country. But, said Corbyn, if it continues, London will have a generation of children with curtailed physical and intellectual development. What an important point.