In Southall, local issues override Brexit concerns

Vidya Ram London | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on June 08, 2017

Health, education, housing and benefits form top priority, says Labour MP Sharma

On a cold and drizzly June morning, a steady stream of people trickled in and out of the polling booth near the Southall station in London, home to one of the country’s biggest South Asian communities.

While the snap election was called by the Conservative government to strengthen its hand in Brexit negotiations, other issues have quickly taken over, as demonstrated by some of those emerging from the polling station.

“For me its not about Brexit but about local issues,” said Gita, a 70-year-old retired nurse, who is a long-standing supporter of Ealing Southall’s Labour MP Virendra Sharma. Gita said that plans to cut services at the local Ealing Hospital was a top priority for her and others in the constituency.

Ahmad Zubair, a father from Hyderabad who has lived in Southall for 12 years and who works for the postal service, said he was positive about a lot of the initiatives in the Labour manifesto, in particular its commitment to reversing the privatisation of the postal service Royal Mail.

“I want to change the Prime Minister,” said Amarjit, a 68-year-old woman, who highlighted concern about cuts to the education system, and NHS as the major issues for her.

“This was an unwarranted and untimely snap election called because they wanted a thumping majority for Brexit negotiations, but the public have reacted on the basis that Brexit on its own isn’t an issue, but that health, education, housing and benefits are major issues for them” said Sharma, the MP, who won by a majority of 18,760 in 2015, and has been the MP since 2007. He pointed out in particular to the local campaign to defend Ealing Hospital against cuts to its services. “We will be fighting not only to retain services but to bring back services,” he said.

Ironically, the issue of Brexit was not on top of the agenda even for a supporter of the UK Independence Party. Carlton, a 68-year-old originally from Chennai, said he was voting for the party because of concerns about immigration from outside the EU.

Published on June 08, 2017
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