Interview: Lib Dem leader and mayoral candidate visit Richmond

  Posted: 16.10.20 at 15:35 by Sam Petherick

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Newly-elected Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey was in town today as part of his 'listening tour" of the UK.

He visited the charities ETNA Centre and Dose of Nature and still had time to sit down for a chat with Richmond Nub News.

Mr Davey's party enjoys a stronghold in South West London, with Munira Wilson representing Twickenham in parliament and our own Sarah Olney (MP for Richmond Park).

Since her election in December he said Sarah has been "incredibly impressive. She works incredibly hard across the constituency."

She has been doing "some great campaigning" over the funding to repair Hammersmith Bridge and to increase police numbers in Richmond.

As MP for nearby Kingston and Surbiton, Mr Davey knows the town well and he thinks the station could be a quieter hub in the future.

Richmond Station

"I wondered whether the numbers of people commuting from Richmond will go down a lot. I suspect more people will spend many more days working from home.

"Let's say they go back to the office 3-4 days a week, rather than 5 days. That's quite a big change that could have a massive impact."

The impact will be felt on transport capacity and demand for office space in central London.

It is a Lib Dem post-pandemic policy to convert unused office space into affordable and green housing, and one that the party's candidate for Mayor of London is campaigning on.

Running for London's mayor

Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London, Luisa Porritt (right) at the ETNA Centre

Luisa Porritt is a councillor in Camden and was an MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for all of seven months.

Noting the importance of high streets in providing half of all jobs in London, she says business rates should be paid by landlords rather than tenants.

She wants more co-working spaces and said she will champion the hospitality industry so that residents continue to spend more money in their local economies.

"I want every neighbourhood in London to be a pleasant place to live and that ensures they're green places to live.

"Obviously I can't just take Richmond Park and plant it everywhere in London, but we can create more pocket parks for children to play in and people to go for walks and runs in fresh air.

Unfortunately, there's only one 2,500-acre Richmond Park!

"Even where there's no space to create parks I would love to see more trees."

The mayoral elections take place on May 6 2021.

Speaking about everyday concerns

Mr Davey is blunt about the challenge facing the Liberal Democrats.

"I'm clear that the party needs to wake up and smell the coffee," he said. "We've had three very poor election results in a row."

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey

The Lib Dems lost 49 seats under the leadership of Nick Clegg in the 2015 general election, slipping to eight MPs as the coalition with the Conservatives proved costly.

The party won 12 seats in both the elections of 2017 and 2019 - when leader Jo Swinson was not elected as the constituency of East Dunbartonshire went SNP instead.

ETNA Centre visit

Along with Ms Porritt Mr Davey was at the ETNA Centre in Rosslyn Road early this afternoon to help out at its Real Junk Food Project.

He spoke with visitors about their housing issues including a man called David who was homeless for three years.

Mr Davey also said he met a woman with a 12-year-old son who has special education needs and his school has been unable to remain open full-time amid the pandemic.

The problems this created for her - having to teach him herself as well as pressures on her work - resonated as Mr Davey also has a son aged 12 with disabilities.

Mr Davey said: "If my party wants to get back in touch with the millions around the country, we need to be where people are at - we need to talk about the issues that most people think about most of the time.

"And make sure we give them the responses that comes from or principles and our values as Liberal Democrats.

"I want to convince the party that I know what these are and I want to convince the public that I'm attuned to their concerns."

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