Labour's man Stuart King writes to Putney

Housing, Flooding & Climate change ...

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It’s difficult to find a more imaginative way to kick-off these reports than: “it’s been a really busy few weeks” – and it really is true for me, at least on the personal front. I got married at the end of July and been on honeymoon for the past fortnight so I hope you’ll forgive me this short distraction from my duties as your parliamentary candidate.

But as you’d expect from a politician I’ve still got plenty to say, so let’s get back to business!

I mentioned last month that I’m making housing my number one priority, and the Government has now published its consultation paper. While it’s a promising start, some of the ideas don’t really apply to the crisis in London which is on a bigger scale and where land is scarcer.

We need a twin-track approach in London: a large increase in affordable rented homes built for those who will never have the sort of income to benefit from the property market; and far more practical help for those who are struggling to get a foot on the ladder – which means a higher stamp duty threshold in London, more homebuy schemes, and more imaginative shared-ownership solutions.

Some will argue that this is why we need to sell off even more council homes, as ex-council stock tends to be most affordable private housing around. But the stock of affordable rented homes locally has become so small that it causes real problems for the remaining council tenants and their families. I support right-to-buy but for every council home sold off, I want to see two new homes for rent built. We must put an end to the stigma the Conservatives created that there’s something wrong with being a council or housing association tenant: there is not.

I was really surprised to discover that in the two years Justine Greening has been MP not once has she asked a parliamentary question on the issue of affordable homes or providing help for first time buyers in Putney. Politicians rightly have differing outlooks and priorities: but as your MP, housing will be at the top of my list of priorities and my words and deeds as your MP will demonstrate this.

Although the scale was nowhere near as damaging as the rest of the country, our borough wasn’t spared from the freak floods that hit towards the end of July. The Wandle burst its banks flooding several homes in Southfields and roads throughout the constituency were for a time transformed into rivers. Whether or not you were directly affected permanently higher insurance premiums may be on the cards if this erratic weather is ultimately linked to climate change.

Climate change is possibly the biggest global threat we face but already I sense a tiring of the incessant attempts to link any freak catastrophe with global warming, or to use it as an excuse to levy new taxes seemingly for the sake of it. I’ve led on the environment locally all my political life – I became interested in it at school when non-one was talking about it and on the Council it was my portfolio for eight years. I am not a climate change sceptic, but those of us who do care passionately about the issue must be careful not to over-reach because we need to be trusted in order to take the tough decisions necessary.

When confronted with a massive problem like climate change people understandably demand facts and action. The problem is that this isn’t maths: there isn’t one right answer and everything else is wrong. The warnings about climate change are based on forecasts; forecasts are based on assumptions and assumptions are not facts, no matter how much analysis lies behind them.

There is a tendency to dismiss out of hand anyone who dares differ from the climate change orthodoxy. We need to be teaching climate change in our classrooms, but as part of a syllabus that demands that pupils challenge assumptions, test to destruction arguments and not accept that the easiest answer is always the right one. And we adults shouldn’t do that either.

Finally, just a quick plug: if you’re on Facebook, please join my Stuart King for Putney group by clicking here. And if you want to hear more from me or get in touch visit my campaign website:


August 15, 2007