It was wonderful to see dozens of people come out to canvass at the weekend, enabling us to cover swathes of the constituency which we had not yet visited. People are often genuinely pleased to see a Labour presence – we get a steady stream of visitors to our office in Sheen Lane saying that it is great to have us here – in an area where traditionally there has not been much activity from the party.
In fact, there is a solid base. We have 1,600 members and the potential to influence local policies. Labour is strong in London and that is reflected by my experience on the doorstep. There is no shortage of people who want to vote Labour and this by-election will solidify our base. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been stopped in the street and told that it was great to see us on local streets. Labour is here to stay in Richmond Park and that is why we need every vote we can get to show that we have a future here.
The most interesting conversation of the day was with a floating voter who wanted to know the issues on the doorstep but when I said housing, he replied ‘housing isn’t a problem here’. I explained that lots of people who are well-housed themselves are worried that their children won’t be able to live locally, a real problem if they need help with childcare and the like.
Moreover, a quarter of people in the constituency live in the private rented sector where they have no protection from rent increases or poor conditions. Housing is an issue across London as it becomes increasingly difficult even for people on relatively high incomes to afford good housing.
Labour is the only party offering realistic solutions. The Tories talk of affordable housing when it is nothing of the sort as it means paying 80 per cent of market rent, beyond the reach of most people.
The LibDems produced an eight page magazine in which housing is not even mentioned, showing they have no understanding of the issues affecting Londoners. Labour wants to see a major building programme of social housing, ensuring London remains a vibrant and successful city.