HUSTINGS MEETING – SKETCH
If ever a candidate was seen to be toeing the party line before being elected then anyone attending last night’s hustings meeting would have been left in no doubt where Luke Murphy, Labour candidate in next month’s by-election, stands.
At the start of the meeting The Rev Jonathan Croucher, in the chair, asked each of the six candidates attending for a quick resume about themselves and their political views.
Establishing his street-cred Luke Murphy began by saying how he grew up in Tulse Hill, how his nan lived on the Berridge Road estate and was chair of her tenants association.
“I know how important local representation is.” he said. Over the last few years working for a housing association he had supported Labour plans to build more homes and homes for first time buyers.
(It couldn’t have been in Lambeth. A recent Freedom of Information request has revealed that between 2005 and 2015 Lambeth council built just 20 new homes – an average of TWO a year.)
“I want to work with the local community to see more local homes built. “Government cuts have hit communities hard all over the country. “That’s why it’s important a Labour council and councilors committed to fairness….” (Whatever came next was lost in noise. Reverend Croucher, chairing the meeting, appealed for everyone to be heard with respect.)
“I’m proud that Lambeth work so hard protecting front line services” continued Luke Murphy. “The council have taken some difficult and unpopular decisions. “I’m pleased that Labour councilors have secured the future of Upper Norwood library.” (But not, it seems, secured the library’s computers. This morning (Tuesday) two of them had been nicked – Ed.)
“If I’m elected as your councilor I’ll be a strong advocate for all ward residents. “It doesn’t mean I’ll agree with everyone on every issue but I will stand up. “I believe residents should be listened to and focus more on their needs.
“I’ll campaign so everyone in Lambeth has a decent place they can call home, ensure your voice is heard and do what I think is right for Gipsy Hill.”
Mark Richardson said he found it incredulous. Had he got the script from Cllr Matthew Bennett (Gipsy Hill ward councilor and cabinet member for housing who wants to demolish Central Hill) ? he asked.
“Why should you have a council that votes en bloc to destroy services for the community?”
Later Luke Murphy said he knew how important libraries were to borrow books, do your homework. Everyone else was making promises about libraries. “The issue is that the Tory Government….”(heckled again).
Mr Richardson retorted: “Why should I vote for you when you vote en bloc and follow the whips?” Luke Murphy: “The role of a local councilor is to represent all the residents. “The Tories have cut the budget by 50 per cent….”
He also found himself being challenged over where he stood on the decision to discipline Labour Cllr Rachel Heywood who had opposed library closures (and, the meeting was told, the demolition of Cressingham Gardens and the building of the Garden Bridge) and was immediately disciplined.
To repeated shouts of: “Would you defy the whip?” Luke Murphy said he was here to account for his view. “I don’t think it’s fair to comment….” He denied voting against Rachel Heywood, finally saying “I voted on a motion to withdraw that because it was an internal party discipline matter. “I voted for the motion to be withdrawn.”
Steve Nally, TUSC Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate, (to laughter) said he did know something about internal Labour party structure – because he had been expelled from the Labour party 24 years ago for opposing the poll tax.
Later, Luke Murphy said Greenwich Leisure were a social enterprise, that the libraries situation is highly difficult, changes to services are brought about by the councils made by the Tory Government.
He had been on the Central Hill estate where he had talked to residents. Admitting the situation was causing a lot of anxiety he said: “I see my role as listening to residents. “It will have a big impact on everyone’s lives on the estate. “My role as a councilor is to represent their views. “This is a way of ensuring there’s additional social housing…..” (more heckling.)
Self-confessed Corbynista Stuart King said that two Corbyn supporters had tried to get on the list of candidates and were both excluded because they both refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Progress cabinet of Lambeth council.
“This is the sort of discipline that would make Stalin blush” he declared.
*As News From Crystal Palace has previously reported, Cllr Heywood was summoned to see the chief whip on Tuesday May 3rd. She was supposed to have been given a decision the following Monday (9th) as to whether or not she would have the party whip withdrawn. More than two weeks later News From Crystal Palace understands she is still awaiting that decision – Ed.)