McDonnell fighting from the shadows
Hayes and Harlington MP talks about whirlwind year after being thrust onto the front bench
HAYES and Harlington MP John McDonnell has had a whirlwind year.
Mr McDonnell, who has been MP for the constituency since 1997, was catapulted to frontline politics last year when his close political ally Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party.
Just over a year after Mr McDonnell was appointed as the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Gazette sat down with him in his Westminster office to discuss the issues that matter most to you in Hayes and Harlington.
Sitting in his Portcullis House office, just across the street from the Houses of Parliament and in the same corridor as the office of the Leader of the Opposition, Mr McDonnell mentions the third runway expansion of Heathrow Airport as probably the biggest issue affecting the constituency.
Outlining his current schedule in addressing the airport’s expansion and residents’ concerns, the Labour MP said he has met with local residents who have shared their fears over the demolition of houses in the constituency, but also the environmental impacts of the increase in flights that would follow.
Mr McDonnell added that he believed the legal action from a coalition of local authorities, including Hillingdon Council, would succeed in stopping the airport’s expansion.
He said: “I’m certain we’re going to win.
“The opposition is not just on the basis of people losing their homes, but people understand the environmental impacts.
“People are raising the question of climate change. It’s not just a Nimby campaign.
“I think the legal challenge is likely to be successful. If this one doesn’t others will.
“I’m worried about the blight on the area.”
Hillingdon Council recently fired an ultimatum to the government, giving ministers 14 days to reverse their preference for expanding Heathrow Airport before formally launching their legal challenge, but proHeathrow campaigners have suggested the council should spend its money on public services, not on fighting legal battles.
Mr McDonnell, who as Shadow Chancellor criticised the government’s autumn statement given by Phillip Hammond last week, said he was also concerned about health and social care across the UK and in Hillingdon.
Speaking about government cuts to councils across the country, he said he is concerned about the impact on social services and on elderly people becoming ‘trapped in the NHS system’ when services fail.
He said: “Hayes is no different to the rest of the country, which is experiencing social care cuts.
“This isn’t party political. I’m concerned for councils whatever political party they are.
“If there isn’t the social care available to patients after they leave hospital they become trapped in the NHS system.”
Hillingdon Council has faced around £73 million in funding cuts from central Government since 2010, but the leader of the council, Ray Puddifoot, said earlier this year there are no planned cuts to services or facility closures.
In another issue, Hillingdon Hospital, last rebuilt in the 1960s, is in dire need of another total renovation, according to Mr McDonnell, who is lobbying the Secretary of State to visit the facility.
Working with Uxbridge MP Boris Johnson and Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner MP Nick Hurd, Mr McDonnell said he wants Jeremy Hunt to visit the site to see its current conditions.
Mr McDonnell said: “I think people at Hillingdon Hospital are doing a fantastic job.
“I think they’re experienced, dedicated, and working long hours in difficult conditions.
“The facility has gone beyond its useful life and we need a new hospital.
“We hope we can get Jeremy Hunt down to see the conditions people are working in, with the cracks in the building and the windows that have been taped up.
“It’s one of the top priorities in the country for investment.”