• September
  • 2nd
  • 2014

Chuka’s South London Press Column: Register to Vote & Make Your Voice Heard

Chuka Umunna MP wrote the following column for the August 29 edition of the South London Press:

Politics will shortly fill the news again. The Scottish referendum is now in less than three weeks and, after that, the Political Parties’ annual conferences will dominate our TV screens. Politicians from all political Parties will be making their pitch to the electorate, and fighting for your votes at the general election.

But if not enough people locally are registered to vote, you will not get to have your voice heard and have your say.

For areas like my constituency of Streatham, with so much potential but more than our fair share of challenges, it is essential that politics works for our community, and using your right to vote is one of the best ways to ensure this happens.

Recent electoral commission figures showed that less than a year to go to the General Election, 7.5 million of the electorate will be unable to vote. The disparity between who is and isn’t registered to vote is concerning. Those who make up our BME communities are less likely to be registered to vote than the average, as are those aged 18-24, and those in the private rented sector.

The government is rushing to introduce Individual Electoral Registration – which will require each to individual to register, rather than the head of the household (as is the case currently). The government’s figures from their own pilots have suggested that nearly 9 million of the current electorate face falling off the register, because they can’t be matched with government-held data. It is the same groups which are currently under-represented that are most susceptible to this drop-off.

It’s only natural to think that those who aren’t registered to vote are insufficiently served by government – when the LibDems and Conservatives in government put tuition fees up, which impacts disproportionately on the young, or when the government sets its face against sensible action proposed by Labour to improve tenancy arrangements for private renters.

As everyone seems to live busier and busier lives, active involvement in politics can be difficult, and I know that Party politics has to do more to attract people to get involved. Whilst I don’t think people are become less political, they are becoming less party political. But if you don’t vote at a General Election because you are not registered, you miss out on having a say as to how our country is run.

Politics matters and does make a difference. Just look at any of the Sure Start centres in my constituency, there because of a Labour government, or the minimum wage introduced when Labour last came to power because we believed it was unacceptable that some people in our society could be paid £1 for an hour of work (we were prepared to push it through despite what the other Parties said).

I know that a lot of trust was broken at the last election, particularly when the LibDems broke their promises to the electorate on tuition fees and VAT, and the Conservatives with their top-down reorganisation of the NHS. However, I think it is incredibly important that we don’t let that put people off politics completely, or take it to mean that politics does not achieve anything.

When politics has the potential to make an enormous difference to people’s lives, and to our local community as a whole, I believe it is absolutely vital that we all have a say over what politics does. As a community, we can’t avoid for our voice to be missing from the debate.

You can register to vote online at gov.uk/register-to-vote or you call your local Borough for more information. If you are in Lambeth electoral services can be contacted on 020 7926 2254.


  • August
  • 28th
  • 2014

Chuka Slams Boris for focusing on Parliamentary ambitions instead of the needs of London commuters

Streatham MP Chuka Umunna has criticised London Mayor Boris Johnson ahead of Mr Johnson’s possible selection as Conservative candidate for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, saying “Boris, distracted by his Parliamentary ambitions, has taken his eye off the ball when he should be focused on the needs of London commuters like my constituents”.

Mr Umunna wants the Mayor to agree that a Streatham route should be considered in any consultation concerning the extension of the Bakerloo line, saying thatif Streatham is not even considered in a consultation on extending the Bakerloo line then it would simply lend credence to those who say our Mayor has become distracted by his Parliamentary ambitions from his full-time job as Mayor”.

The London Infrastructure Plan 2050, launched by the Mayor’s office in July, suggested “Extending the Bakerloo Line south from Elephant and Castle through Southwark, into Lewisham and beyond” at some time prior to 2050.

It has since been reported that Transport for London (TfL) are to start a ten-week public consultation on extending the line to south-east London in September. However, there has been no indication that the option of extending the line to Streatham in South west London via Camberwell and Herne Hill – which TfL had agreed to consider in 2009 following pressure from Mr Umunna – will be included.

Prior to the launch of the London Infrastructure Plan, in a letter earlier this year to London’s Transport Commissioner, Mr Umunna wrote about his “strong view that Streatham is at the moment insufficiently served by TfL and by transport services more generally”, repeating his long-time demand that TfL examine the case for extending an existing underground line to Streatham.

Mr Umunna – who has been campaigning for a Streatham tube since before becoming the MP for his local area – is meeting the Transport Commissioner in September to repeat his long-held demands for his constituency which has been historically poorly served by the tube.

Today is the deadline for applications for the Conservative Party candidacy in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Boris Johnson confirmed this week he will be seeking selection, despite his position as Mayor.

Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat chair of the London Assembly transport committee, voiced support earlier this month for extending the Bakerloo line to Lewisham & Bromley. However, Mr Umunna’s view is that Streatham is poorly served by existing transport connections and should have a tube line. Mr Umunna said today that “all we are asking is that Streatham – historically ill-served by London Transport – be given due consideration instead of being ignored.”

Commenting, Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said:

Boris, distracted by his Parliamentary ambitions, has taken his eye off the ball when he should be focused on the needs of London commuters like my constituents”

“We have been pushing for TfL to extend the underground to Streatham and if Streatham is not even considered in the consultation on extending the Bakerloo line it would demonstrate clearly that Boris’ focus lies elsewhere.

“We will not stop campaigning on this.  Boris must intervene and ensure Streatham’s case for a tube is heard – Conservative association members in Uxbridge aren’t the only people he’s been elected to serve.

“All we are asking is that Streatham – historically ill-served by London Transport – be given due consideration instead of being ignored.”

  • August
  • 4th
  • 2014

100 years since Britain entered the First World War

Today it is one hundred years to the day since Britain entered the First World War.

So many young soldiers, sailors and other service personnel sacrificed so much in service to our country, and fought so bravely in a conflict that has given us much of our modern understanding of the horrors of war.

Locally, we will be thinking in particular of those in whose memory the Streatham War Memorial, and other memorials in the local area, were built. And we will remember those from across Britain and across the world – from the Indian sub-continent, to Africa, Australia and the Caribbean – who fought for Britain in our nation’s hour of need.

We will remember those who fell, and those who fought and lived on with the memory of having fought. We will remember the suffering and sacrifice of those on the home front – of those who worked in the mines, in the factories, and on the land, and who cared for the wounded and for those returning home.

100 years of time having passed offers us an important moment in which to remember the history of our nation, the First World War and how it transformed our country. It is an important opportunity for our whole nation to reflect on the lessons of those who went before us, and to pay tribute to them.

The freedom that so many fought for, endures today, and we must never forget their heroism, valour and sacrifice.

Chuka

Chuka Umunna MP
Member of Parliament for Streatham
covering Streatham and parts of Clapham, Balham, Tulse Hill and Brixton

 

 

  • July
  • 24th
  • 2014

Message to constituents on Gaza: This death and destruction needs to stop.

Over the last few weeks, a huge number of you have written to me to express dismay about the violence in Israel and Palestine. I know many constituents have seen the photographs circulating on social media of the injured and those who have lost their lives; I know too that many have read the reports over the last few days and weeks of the loss of Israeli and Palestinian life.

Most constituents who have written to me have asked me for my view on the conflict as their MP, and as hundreds have written, I thought it best to write this post to set out my view. I am not surprised that more people have written to me about this than about most other issues. I have seen the same reports and the same photographs, and have been horrified and dismayed by what I have seen.

In the events following the indefensible murder of three innocent Israeli teenagers, more than 600 Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and more than thirty Israelis have died. The death and destruction needs to stop. There needs to be an immediate end to violence, and a return to the negotiating table. This crisis – with so much death and destruction in the Gaza Strip and rocket attacks against Israel continuing – must stop.

The failure to resolve this conflict and its causes need to be brought to an end.  Having met with both Palestinian and Israeli leaders on two trips to the region in the last two years, I am all too aware that the road to peace is a difficult one and there are no easy, quick solutions. But it is in all our interests to find a way out of the current impasse.

We live in an increasingly interdependent world, and we cannot think that the violence is something that affects only those living in Palestine and Israel. The conflict has reverberations that echo around the world, to the detriment of us all, and resolving the conflict is not the responsibility of those in Israel and Palestine alone. I passionately believe that the capacity to end this conflict, and establish peace and material security for Israeli and Palestinian alike, exists, but that the whole world needs to work with them towards it.

Labour is clear that we oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza. At the same time the attacks on Israel by Hamas are wrong, and should end.

The current violence is not in my view a durable solution to this which is why I oppose any further escalation of this conflict and believe there needs to be an immediate ceasefire. There then needs to be the intent and work needed to realise a solution – a durable two state solution that brings prosperity, peace and security to both Palestinian and Israeli alike.  I hope sincerely that this can be achieved, and that the world will continue to work until there is lasting peace and material security for all.

 

  • July
  • 9th
  • 2014

Local MP Pressures Minister to Hint at New Hope for Thameslink

Following a demand from Streatham MP Chuka Umunna to make a statement regarding the sufficiency of Streatham’s transport links, Transport Minister Stephen Hammond has suggested in Parliament that additional peak trains may run on the service through Streatham station.

Mr Umunna has fought a long-running campaign, from 2008, to secure the future of the Thameslink service from Streatham station since proposals emerged to end the through-London service from Streatham and Tulse Hill stations on the Wimbledon loop section of the Thameslink franchise.

Mr Umunna set out four key tests for the future of Thameslink services on the Wimbledon loop: That a cross London service be maintained; the frequency of services be increased; that longer trains should run on the route; and that new trains be provided.

Following the decision by Ministers at the Department for Transport, announced in January 2013, that the Wimbledon loop section of the Thameslink franchise would continue unchanged without the frequency of service increasing, Mr Umunna said that:

“The possibility that our through-London service might be cut was always an absurd proposition so the most I can give the government for this announcement is half-marks but what we really need is newer, longer, more frequent trains”

Now, in a response to a demand from Mr Umunna for a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport on the sufficiency of Streatham’s transport links, transport Minister Stephen Hammond hinted at a u-turn on the frequency of services, saying to Parliament that:

“Network Rail is currently undertaking a Sussex Route study, to develop options for improvements on rail services in the Streatham area. It is due to report its findings next year.

“Residents and transport users in Streatham will also benefit from the higher capacity trains that will operate across the Thameslink network. Furthermore, as part of the new franchise, there are proposals to provide two additional trains in the peak.”

Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP said:

“That the Minister, in a statement specifically about Streatham’s transport links, has hinted about a u-turn to provide additional peak trains, will provide new hope for Streatham commuters using Thameslink.

“It remains to be seen whether what the Minister has suggested will be delivered, but what the Minister has said is clear and on the record – The onus is now on Ministers to back up that statement to Parliament with action and ensure more trains from Streatham and Tulse Hill.

“I will not stop fighting for better transport links for our community, including but not limited to better and more frequent Thameslink services.”