Boris under fire from election candidates
Tory hopeful forced to defend himself against rivals’ accusations
UXBRIDGE and South Ruislip election hopefuls rounded on Tory front-runner Boris Johnson at a debate on Friday, questioning his ability to serve as an MP while still holding the office of London Mayor.
Candidates from the five main parties – Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP and the Green Party – slugged it out at a two hour hustings at St Margaret’s Church, Uxbridge.
Labour’s Chris Summers led the attack on Mr Johnson, telling the packed audience: “You don’t want a candidate who’s already Mayor of London, which is one of the biggest jobs out there, who’s also an author, a newspaper columnist, numerous other side lines.
“You’re looking for someone to represent Uxbridge and South Ruislip and stand up for you on all the issues that matter.”
Lib Dem Mike Cox added: “We need somebody who is going to work hard for you irrespective of fear or favour, party or personal interest and, yes, God forbid, a burning ambition to be prime minister.
“If you want an MP to be a national celebrity, with no moral compass, who parachutes himself in from time to time, then vote for that man over there.”
Mr Johnson hit back, saying: “I do have a record as a previous constituency MP and I worked flat out for those people. I want to try to allay any anxieties that any of you might have about how accessible I would be, or how present I would be.
“I want you to know that I’m required by my party to be as useful as I possibly can to the whole campaign, and I hope that you will forgive me for that, but unless I specifically tell you otherwise, I am campaigning here in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, to improve the lives of everybody in this constituency.”
The hustings was one of three being held for the constituency ahead of the General Election on May 7, the first having already taken place, at Brunel University.
Friday’s was the only such meeting that Mr Johnson is attending. The third and final hustings for the constituency will be held at Yiewsley Baptist Church, in Colham Avenue, on Sunday, April 26.
Candidates fielded questions from the audience on everything from Heathrow Airport’s proposed expansion and HS2 to religion’s role in politics and the Israel-Palestine conflict.
On most issues, the candidates repeated their parties’ official positions – a notable exception being when Labour’s Chris Summers vowed once again to vote against HS2, rather than toe his party’s line.
Mr Johnson admitted he still held hopes for resurrecting his plans for a ‘Boris Island’ airport hub on the Thames Estuary, which Mr Summers claimed would inevitably mean closing Heathrow Airport, costing countless jobs – a charge Mr Johnson dismissed.
Mr Johnson said he was against a third runway as it would be ‘not deliverable’, adding: “We need to start thinking about serious and practical alternatives, and that’s why I’m sticking to my guns.”
HITTING BACK: Boris Johnson