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Tensions Rise Over Charing Cross Hospital and Remain Campaign at Chelsea and Fulham Hustings

  • June 25, 2024
  • 3 min read
Tensions Rise Over Charing Cross Hospital and Remain Campaign at Chelsea and Fulham Hustings

During a weekend hustings, the candidates from Conservative and Labour for Chelsea and Fulham clashed over the Charing Cross Hospital refurbishment and their support for Remain during the Brexit referendum. The event remained civil overall, though sparks flew between the contenders.

Greg Hands, the Tory Minister for Trade Policy and MP for Chelsea and Fulham since its establishment in 2010, accused his Labour rival, Ben Coleman, of not participating in the local Remain campaign back in 2016. Coleman, also the Deputy Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham, vehemently denied these accusations.

Held at All Saints Church near Putney Bridge, the hustings featured the Green Party’s Mona Crocker and Liberal Democrats’ Blaise Baquiche, alongside Hands and Coleman. The debate was moderated by Nick Watt, Political Editor at BBC Newsnight. Watt kicked off the event by questioning each candidate, addressing issues such as the Liberal Democrats’ struggle with the coalition’s broken promises and the Green Party’s handling of candidate misconduct reports.

Coleman faced questions regarding Sir Keir Starmer’s recent comments that he ‘never expected’ to win the 2019 election under Jeremy Corbyn. Coleman remarked that while Corbyn was the leader, he failed to rally the people, and praised Starmer’s efforts as nearly impossible but transformative for Labour.

Meanwhile, Hands responded to inquiries about an ongoing Gambling Commission investigation into some Conservative Party officials over election date betting. He agreed it was a bad look and insisted that if insider trading was proven, those involved should face significant penalties.

A local midwife raised concerns about the high levels of stress and mental health issues among her colleagues. Hands acknowledged the NHS had received record funding but admitted that waiting lists still needed to be reduced. Baquiche highlighted the dire state of Charing Cross Hospital and the Liberal Democrats’ commitment to annual funding for improvements. Crocker emphasized the Green Party’s pledge of a £20 billion project to revamp NHS buildings and criticized part-privatization schemes seen in countries like France.

The topic of Charing Cross Hospital came up again, with Coleman challenging Hands’ claim of a ‘floor-by-floor refurbishment.’ Coleman stated that he had been pushing for a firm Labour commitment to the hospital, a promise recently echoed by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting.

A rare moment of unity among the candidates was seen when discussing Europe, noting the lack of emphasis on the issue in their campaigns. Each candidate had international experience, which was highlighted throughout the event. All expressed opposition to Brexit, with Hands referring to his role in leading the Chelsea and Fulham Remain campaign and his current efforts as Trade Minister to foster better relations with Europe. Baquiche criticized Labour’s unchanged stance on Europe since Corbyn’s leadership, while Crocker condemned the Conservatives for internal conflicts hindering their effectiveness.

Housing was another significant topic, with all four candidates recognizing the crisis but offering different solutions. Hands stressed the need for more homes but opposed building on the green belt, instead suggesting the use of brownfield land, particularly that owned by Transport for London (TfL). He also accused the Labour-led Hammersmith and Fulham council of stalling the Earls Court development.

Coleman countered by stating that the delays in the Earls Court project were due to efforts to prevent mass evictions under the previous scheme. He mentioned Labour’s national plans for increased house building, including construction on the ‘grey belt,’ and measures to support renters, such as ending Section 21 no-fault evictions.

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