In the race to fill the parliamentary seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, the opposition Labour Party candidate, Danny Beales, is making the concerns of the constituency’s voters his primary focus. Rather than engaging in direct attacks on former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Beales is concentrating on issues that he believes are troubling the electorate, such as high inflation, weak economic growth, car charges, rising taxes, and mortgage costs. While the looming general election within the next 18 months presents an opportunity for Beales to secure the seat, it also serves as a partial referendum on the leadership of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Economic Concerns Take Center Stage
During a recent election debate, Beales made only one comment about Johnson, responding negatively when asked if Johnson was honest. However, he quickly returned to emphasizing the government’s handling of the economy and public services. Beales explained that he has gathered insights from door-to-door campaigning, and it is clear that the economy and the resulting crisis are the primary concerns for many ordinary people. The electorate is keenly interested in understanding the impact of the economy on their daily lives.
Referendum on Sunak’s Leadership
Although the by-elections aim to fill seats vacated by Johnson and two other lawmakers, they also serve as an assessment of Prime Minister Sunak’s leadership. Sunak, having held the position for just nine months, urged voters earlier this year to evaluate his performance based on five key pledges: reducing inflation, stimulating economic growth, cutting the national debt, reducing health waiting lists, and curbing the arrival of asylum seekers via the Channel. However, Sunak has yet to deliver on any of these promises, and a recent YouGov survey revealed that 64% of voters consider the economy to be the most pressing issue.
The Battle for Uxbridge and South Ruislip
Uxbridge and South Ruislip, located on the western outskirts of London, has traditionally been a Conservative stronghold. The Conservative Party has won the seat in every general election since 1970. However, Labour is confident in its prospects and betting odds suggest that the party has over a 90% chance of securing the seat, which Johnson won by a majority of 7,210 votes in 2019. While Labour’s campaign message primarily focuses on national concerns like the economy and mortgages, the Conservatives are concentrating on local issues.
Maria Genjatovic, a retired businesswoman who had been a lifelong Conservative voter, stated that she would switch her vote to Labour due to the perceived economic problems, including high inflation, long health service waiting lists, and rising mortgage rates. On the other hand, Paul Mathews, who works in human resources and has voted for various political parties, expressed concern about the economy but was unable to support Labour due to the expansion of the anti-pollution Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) from inner London to the suburbs, including Uxbridge. Starting next month, drivers of vehicles not meeting the latest emissions standards will face a daily charge of £12.50 ($16). Mathews criticized this policy, which would impose an additional levy of nearly £400 per month on two family members unless they purchase new cars.
Conservative Candidate’s Response
The Conservative candidate, Steve Tuckwell, a local councillor and businessman, continues to focus on the ULEZ issue, acknowledging the challenging backdrop. However, Tuckwell also highlights that other countries are currently facing similar difficulties. He remains optimistic about his chances in the election, despite the challenges.
A Labour Member of Parliament who has engaged in canvassing in the area expressed that while voters have expressed concerns about the economy, the ULEZ issue could adversely impact the party’s performance. The election is expected to be closely contested, with the Labour MP expressing cautious optimism about squeezing through to victory.
In conclusion, Danny Beales, the Labour candidate, is prioritizing economic concerns in the battle for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip parliamentary seats. While avoiding direct attacks on Boris Johnson, Beales is focusing on issues such as high inflation, weak economic growth, car charges, rising taxes, and mortgage costs. The election serves as an assessment of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s leadership, with voters keenly interested in the economy and its impact on their lives. The contest in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, traditionally a Conservative stronghold, is expected to be closely fought, with Labour hopeful of securing the seat.