As regular readers will be aware Hammersmith and Fulham has a Conservative Council and all the seats are up for election on Thursday. Just four years ago we lived under the yoke of a long running Socialist administration at the Town Hall. My ward of Ravenscourt Park was on a long list of gains. We ended up with 33 councillors to 13 for Labour.
Among the early decisions was to replace the red flag flying over the Town Hall with the Union Flag – I hope a matter of some comfort to those stuck in traffic on the A4. We have also made some other changes. When I go out canvassing I find that residents notice that their Council Tax bills are lower and their streets are cleaner. These are not are only achievements. For example I am very proud that we have reduced the number of children in care and placed more for adoption. But cleaner streets and lower Council Tax are the ones that resonate on the doorstep. If anyone still adheres to an automatic correlation between reduced spending and lower standards of service then let them visit my borough.
So far as the General Election is concerned it is the Hammersmith constituency that is of interest. Of the relevant wards when last contested there were five that went to the Conservatives, four to Labour and one was split. When I ask voters if they want to meet their Conservative candidate for the General Election, Shaun Bailey, I find tremendous enthusiasm. He gives his own authentic outlook – which is staunchly Conservative – but not a regurgitation of the Party line.
My prediction is that this time next week I will still be a councillor, I will be living in a Conservative borough, I will have a Conservative MP and there will be a Conservative Government. I even predict, whisper it softly, that we will see a net gain of Council seats in Hammersmith and Fulham – even on our landslide triumph of four years ago.
One big issue in my constituency – as elsewhere in west London – is the third runway at Heathrow. Here is a letter I sent about it to our local paper, the Chronicle.
While aircraft noise has not been much of a problem the last few days a huge election issue for Hammersmith has been the Labour Government's plans for a third runway at Heathrow. Last month there was a court victory for opponents of the plan, including Hammersmith and Fulham Council. The judgement was that the public consultation was invalid, that the government's figures on the economic case were flawed there had not been proper consideration of the impact on carbon emissions.
Yet the Labour Party say they are still determined to go ahead. "We support a third runway at Heathrow," says Labour's manifesto. Labour's candidate for Hammersmith, Andrew Slaughter, is personally opposed to it. Good for him. But the snag is that by sustaining a Labour
Government he would allow it to happen.
By contrast the Conservative manifesto says: "Our goal is to make Heathrow Airport better, not bigger. We will stop the third runway." Air pollution levels here already exceed EU limits yet the government approves a scheme that can only make it far worse. This leaves their credibility on the issue of climate change in shreds. The plans would add an extra 350 flights a day with Hammersmith on the flight path. Perhaps more. Labour's promises to limit the number of flights have been broken before. There will also be a big increase in road traffic.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is quite right that Heathrow Airport represents "a 1940s planning error." Rather than expand it we should seek to move it elsewhere. The economic case for expanding it ignores the economic costs of the people of west London either spending a fortune on double glazing or being denied a proper sleep night after night, thus with their productivity duly impaired. Government say the third runway is essential for business. But what does business say? Only 1% of members of the Institute of Directors think airport expansion is a priority. 78% of London firms are against expansion at Heathrow as shown by a survey for the London Chamber of
Individual politicians and candidates may have their own views but the upshot is clear. The election of a Conservative Government would mean no third runway. Labour are still determined to go ahead.
Cllr Harry Phibbs
(Ravenscourt Park Ward. Conservative.)
Hammersmith Town Hall,