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It’s Time To Represent People, Not Property Developers

Our part of London is being turned into a luxury high-rise quarter to benefit wealthy outsiders, but the local MP has spent years cheering the building frenzy on. That’s no surprise: Nick Raynsford was paid twice as much by the construction industry last year as he was to represent his constituents. Now that he is finally retiring, Labour want to move one of their local councillors into Raynsford’s House of Commons seat while they parachute another councillor from Huddersfield into the vacant council berth. It’s time for voters to call time on this arrogant game of musical chairs, argues Green Party press officer Simon Edge

We all know times have been hard lately with real incomes going down for most people, but not every resident of Greenwich & Woolwich has been feeling the austerity squeeze. The financial year 2013-14 was a particularly good one for the Rt Hon Wyvill Richard Nicolls Raynsford. 

The man who has been our MP since 1992 received a total of £136,207 from his various directorships and consultancies. That’s on top of the £67,060 he was paid to represent us in Parliament.

Almost all of these extra earnings came from the building trade. He received £22,917 for 143 hours’ work as honorary vice-chairman of the Construction Industry Council. He accepted £31,250 for 77 hours’ work – more than £400 per hour – as chairman of the NHBC Foundation, which provides research and practical guidance for the house-building industry. He got £25,000 for 50 hours as a non-executive director of Hometrack, which provides valuation and related services in the housing market. He received a further £20,000 for 50 hours’ presiding over a project called the Constructionarium. And he earned £25,000 for 147 hours as chairman of a public/private joint venture called Triathlon Homes.

Housing has always been Nick Raynsford’s thing. He worked for a housing aid centre before he was elected to Parliament, and he rose to become Housing Minister where he acquired a reputation as one of the Blair government’s most skilled technical experts. But somewhere along the way he also learned to sell his expertise to his own great advantage.

While he himself has been quietly tripling his income for years, it’s far from clear that his constituency has benefited. His idea of progress is burying Greenwich Peninsula under a swathe of luxury high-rise apartment blocks that are already being marketed in the Far East as a way for foreign investors to play London’s casino housing market. The impact on the environment and our already choked local transport infrastructure doesn’t seem to bother him. While the building industry celebrates, his constituents have been left with the worst air pollution in London – and it’s going to get far, far worse.

As Nick Raynsford finally retires from Parliament at this election, many people will be left with the impression that Greenwich & Woolwich has served him much better than he has served it. But what happens now? Labour won nearly 50 percent of the vote at the last general election, so for them this seat is as safe as houses – or as high-rise luxury flats. They also see Greenwich Council as their private fiefdom. Why else would they select a man who until a fortnight ago was a councillor in Huddersfield to fill the Greenwich West council seat vacated by Raynsford’s would-be successor in Parliament?

Fortunately there is an alternative. In the Greenwich West council by-election, Dr Robin Stott is standing for the Green Party. He is a retired consultant physician who has lived in the ward for 40 years and has dedicated himself to winning urgent action to address climate change for the sake of public health. In a profile this month the British Medical Journal called him “focused, rebellious and receptive”, while former colleagues call him inspirational.

Our candidate for the parliamentary constituency is Abbey Akinoshun. Born in Nigeria, he had to learn Bulgarian to get his first degree from the University of Sofia and when he came to London he cleaned the Tube tracks at night to put himself through nursing school. He knows the meaning of hard work far better than the Westminster insiders who love to lecture us on the subject. He wants to win this seat in Parliament not for the sake of the extra earnings, but for the privilege of representing his neighbours.

In surveys asking people which policies they most favour, the Green Party is currently way ahead of Labour in Greenwich & Woolwich – in one recent poll we scored 36 percent compared to 23 percent for Labour and 17 percent each for the Tories and Ukip, with the Lib Dems trailing woefully on 7 percent. That means change is in the air. 

The time has come, so please spread the word. We’ve had enough concrete from the man famously described by one influential local commentator as “the tribune of the developers”, and we don’t need another Labour man from central casting to replace him. 

At long last, let’s put the Green in Greenwich.