THE LABOUR candidate to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip has said the former prime minister played a part in ethnic minorities losing “trust in democracy and public life”.
Danny Beales is the Labour candidate for the byelection in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which became vacant after Johnson stood down last month over the investigation into the ‘partygate’ scandal.
Beales, 34, said Johnson’s history of comments against people of colour as well as the Tory party’s controversial immigration bill have left ethnic minorities disillusioned.
Johnson has previously described Muslim women in niqabs as “letterboxes” and referred to black men as “piccaninnies with watermelon smiles” and more recently, home secretary Suella Braverman described migrants coming to the UK as an “invasion”.
“That language is just completely unacceptable, especially from someone who is meant to be a leader in our country,” Beales told Eastern Eye in reference to Braverman. He added: “They’re have been lots of very hurtful things said about many different communities, including the Muslim community, from the previous MP, which is totally unacceptable.
“Unfortunately, we’ve got a politics at the moment that’s focusing on difference and not on those things that bring us all together. I have been engaging with those communities, actively going out visiting a number of local mosques, churches, synagogues and temples to speak to the community across the constituency, to understand their concerns, to show that I’m there to support them.
“I think it’s going to take time to rebuild people’s trust in politics. People feel very let down here. Our politics has descended into being really divisive, hateful at times; comments that have shaken communities’ trusts in democracy and in public life.”
Uxbridge and South Ruislip has a diverse population, with 43.1 per cent of residents from an ethnic minority background. Nearly a quarter of residents identify as Asians.
Beales admitted the country’s institutions – such as the Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade, NHS and even English cricket – which have all been found to be systemically racist, outline, on a larger scale, the issues that ethnic minorities face.
“It’s an issue that needs addressing across society, across institutions and public services,” said Beales. “I grew up in this area, I know it’s incredibly diverse community, in all senses. I think having an MP who celebrates all communities, who actively seeks to bring people together, who challenges institutions or organisations that are failing to improve the situation of equality and diversity, I think will be helpful.”
He added: “We’ve got opportunities to celebrate local cultures, cultural festivals, religious festivals. It’s a real shame that the council repeatedly, for instance, failed to recognise Black History Month. This is completely the opposite direction that we need to go. We need to be reflecting about our history and our culture, the really rich cultural and religious diversity in our city and in this borough.
Beales added that he would be a “fulltime” MP, a reference to Johnson’s absence from Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Johnson took part in just three votes in the House of Commons since stepping down as prime minister last summer, while claiming over £4 million in corporate speaker fees, many of which have taken place abroad.
“All I can do as a representative is to show that I’m different to that, that I care about our community and want the best for our community.
“I will, at all times, be respectful of others of different communities and want to champion absolutely everyone – whether they vote for me or not, across all cultural and religious backgrounds. I’ll be a representative for the whole community here.”
Beales said his family history in Uxbridge and South Ruislip goes back to his great-grandparents. His family have lived and worked in the area since then. Brought up by a single mother in South Ruislip, he was made homeless twice as a child, after his “hard-working” mum was made redundant.
With memories of living in a bed and breakfast hostel, sharing a bathroom and hob with other residents and being told to stay in his room when the police conducted drugs raids on the property, Beales said he is able to relate to the cost of living crisis faced by his constituents. He currently rents a room in Hillingdon for £650 a month.
“Speaking to families here, there’s a lot they need support with, whether it’s the cost of living crisis, the decline of the hospital and public services or increasing crime and antisocial behaviour. These are major issues I will tackle.
“The community deserves a lot better than they’ve been getting for the last 13 years from Conservative representation.” He added: “There is a very high rate of home ownership here. People have moved from other boroughs in London here to settle and start a family. And they’ve been really squeezed with mortgage rates now at six per cent, which will add £500-£600 more a month on their mortgage, as their fixed term deals come to an end. It’s terrifying amounts of money that will be make or break for most people.
“I don’t think the government quite gets the impact the cost of living crisis is having on people’s lives and their quality of life. To say things like, ‘don’t worry, we’ve got this, it’ll be okay’. It’s really just not acceptable and people see through that. It’s not okay. The government haven’t got this.”
Beales has been criticised by his Tory rival in the byelection, Steve Tuckwell, who described it as “shocking” that the Labour candidate failed to disclose he co-owns a flat in Camden, with an approximate value of more than £500,000. Beales was a councillor at Camden London Borough Council before leaving to fight for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP seat. A Tory source added: “When he owns a £500K Camden pad, complaining about rising rents, when he’s renting by choice due to already being on the property ladder, is a bit on the nose.
“Danny doesn’t represent outer London and should stick to sniping from the comfort of his central London council chamber and Camden flat.”
In response, Beales said his “emotional” connection to Uxbridge and South Ruislip makes him a better candidate to serve the people than another backbench MP who will “tow the party line”.
“I’d say my great grandparents, my grandparents, my mum are from the area. I was born here. I went to primary and secondary school here. I don’t apologise for being homeless and having to leave this community,” said Beales.
“I’m sorry that Steve (Tuckwell) feels that somehow that makes me ineligible to serve the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. I would say it makes me understand more the challenges they’re going through, not less.
“The fact that the Tories are unwilling to say the words ‘cost of living crisis’ says everything about their suitability to represent local people at the moment.
“They don’t want to talk about improving education, or supporting small businesses who are facing massive costs and regulations. They won’t talk about the fact that we’ve saved the police station (Uxbridge police station was saved from closure last week). They won’t talk about the health service and the fact they haven’t delivered improvements to Hillingdon hospital.”