Leyton News

MP candidates in Leyton and Wanstead set out ambitions at hustings

Six of the eight candidates standing set out their stances on knife crime, NHS funding, and trust in politics at a hustings event in Leytonstone on Thursday evening, reports Marco Marcelline

Shannell Johnson (independent) speaking during the hustings. It was attended by Labour, Conservatives, Greens, Workers Party and Lib Dems

Candidates standing for election in Leyton and Wanstead set out their stances on knife crime, NHS funding, and trust in politics at a hustings event in St John’s Church in Leytonstone on Thursday evening (27th June).

Workers Party candidate Mahtab Anwar Aziz triggered some criticism from the panel when he said that knife crime was caused in part by young people playing violent computer games and watching films.

Drawing on his past growing up in South London, Labour Party candidate Calvin Bailey responded by speaking passionately about the causes of knife crime: “It is not computer games. It is fear, it is hate, it is lack of hope. It is organisations and groups getting into communities and getting into young people…and having them manipulated to believe that weapons are an answer.”

Drawing some of the loudest claps of the night, he spoke of his close friendship with the brother of Stephen Lawrence and how he used to carry a knife for protection in the aftermath of his racist murder and the murders of four other young people he knew.

“I am very embarrassed to say that when those murders happened…that I carried a knife because like the rest of my friends I didn’t know what alternatives there were. 

He continued: “And the reason why I’m so passionate about these things…is because I’m able to relate to those people [carrying a knife] and say to them, ‘we need hope, we need a way out that gives you a path that prevents you from putting a weapon in your hands.”

The Liberal Democrats’ Arran Angus who was covering for Tara Copeland, joined Bailey in criticising the Workers Party candidate Mahtab Anwar Aziz’s stance on knife crime. 

He said: “Much like Calvin, I disagree strongly with the representative from the Workers Party. It is not things like films and computer games which lead to violence. I used to work in public health and I worked on a project on Bristol knife crime and despite what people think it was just as dangerous in the 1950s and 60s in London as it is today. It is just not true to say that people today are different from people in the past.”

Arran added that he supported following Glasgow’s lead in treating knife crime as a public health issue rather than a “purely criminalised issue”.

Calvin Bailey (top left), Gloria Croxall (top centre), Mahtab Aziz (top right), Shanell Johnson (bottom left), Tara Copeland (bottom centre), Charlotte Lafferty (bottom right)

On the topic of government support for veterans, Bailey said: “I recently left the military after 25 years, and it is a big, big letting go of you by the state. I’ve personally struggled with it, and I’m still struggling with it.”

He spoke about a young Black man in Leytonstone he met on the campaign trail who had left the military after ten years and was now unemployed and without a fixed abode. “I’ve done [for him] what I’ll do to all veterans which is make sure he’s linked in and engaged with our local councillors who have a very good provision for our veterans.”

The Conservative candidate Gloria Croxall said veterans’ wellbeing was a “personal interest” for her because her brother-in-law is in the army. 

She continued: “As Conservatives we are planning to put 5% of GDP to defence and Labour can’t match that. It is utterly pointless to not care about people who have protected our royal family. We continue supporting Prime Ministers [after they leave office] so we should continue supporting the army and veterans who have kept us safe when we have threats.”

Independent candidate Shanell Johnson was repeatedly well-received by the crowd, drawing loud claps when she spoke on the need to pay NHS staff properly, young people’s issues, and civic participation in politics. 

Regarding NHS strikes, Shanell said: “It’s not just about money, it’s the fact that they are stressed beyond repair. On top of that, what provisions are we providing for them in terms of their homes and housing. We all saw during Covid how NHS staff were pushed to the brink and what did they get in return? Next to nothing. In terms of what plans I have for [striking NHS workers] I want to…set out a proper agenda, lobby appropriately and get them exactly what they deserve because they definitely deserve it.”

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The Liberal Democrats reiterated Shanell’s assertion that NHS strikes weren’t only about money. Arran said: “They should be paid more money, but it’s not just about the money they’re not being paid. We need a better GP service to take pressure off A & E, we need a better care service so that beds are freed up. This will be part of what will stop strikes.”

The independent candidate also issued a plea to the audience to look after unpaid carers, saying: “Please everybody. If you know a carer…provide them a little bit of respite where you can, even if it’s just an hour or two where they can come away and be at peace. There are so many [carers] in this community who are not getting the support they deserve.”

The Labour candidate Calvin Bailey surprised attendees when he openly criticised a comment made by his party leader Sir Keir Starmer at an event hosted by The Sun earlier this week. 

Starmer, after being asked what Labour was going to do to deport illegal immigrants, said: “At the moment people coming from countries like Bangladesh are not being removed.” 

Bailey, a former RAF commander, said the comment, which he had made representations back to the Labour Party about, had caused him “upset” and added it was “not something that I align or subscribe to.”

The Conservative candidate, who is from South Africa, said: “People who are because they are coming to care, coming to audit, coming to study, there definitely should be routes to allow them to come. I haven’t seen any very well-developed economy that does not have immigrants working there. London is a cosmopolitan city and we need to embrace legal migration.”

Councillor Shanell Johnson drew big cheers when she referenced her background as a grandchild of Windrush immigrants. “I’m a descendent of the Windrush era…I’m the first councillor in Redbirdge that is of a West-Indian heritage. I get goose pimples when I talk about a subject that is very dear to me. In terms of the hostile environment, you’ve seen family members of mine that were sent back after having served this country and paid taxes and had families. That needs to stop. 

“What I heard yesterday [from Keir Starmer] was deeply disappointing because to me it…sounded like a rhetoric to stoke divisions and point out the Bangladeshi community who have also served as much as my family have.”

The Green Party candidate Charlotte Lafferty said she would not take the oath of allegiance if elected MP because she was a “resident not a [subject]”. She added: “I don’t believe we should have an unelected head of state. I don’t think it’s democratic.”

Pitching her candicacy to voters in the church hall, Charlotte highlighted her working-class background: “Growing up, my family relied on hand-me-downs to get by. If we were growing up now, we would be relying on food banks even though my parents worked. And for my whole adult life, I’ve been a renter living paycheque to paycheque.

“I’m acutely aware of how damaging the old parties’ policies are to us and how precarious our current economic situation is. That’s why I will support policies like rent controls, publicly funded services, scrapping the two-child benefit limit and a wealth tax.”

The Green Party candidate has also pushed “for every single home in Leyton and Wanstead to be retrofitted and insulated so that energy bills won’t be going through the roof while also doing less harm to our environment.”

Meanwhile, Bailey notably went further than Labour’s election manifesto when he backed the nationalisation of water and gas companies.

Responding to a question on whether he would support nationalisation of water, he said: “The water companies have never worked for us. I don’t get a choice as to whether I’m going to get my water from Scotland or from Thames Water. Any number of these core services, like British Gas, that we don’t have a choice over, should be owned by us. That is not to say that I don’t think there is a path for private business within our economy, and they do as Shanell pointed to, have to be controlled properly.”

The RejoinEU candidate Mark Bezer and Reform Party’s David Sandground did not attend the hustings. 

The general election is on 4th July.

Pitches from all candidates standing in the three constituences of Waltham Forest are available to read in our July print issue, out now. See where you can pick up a copy here

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