This afternoon in Hendon, local members will vote to select the constituency’s next parliamentary candidate. The seat is a marginal, won by Tory Matthew Offord last year by only 1,072 votes.
The SKWAWKBOX spoke to one of the shortlisted candidates, Patrick Hunter, a no-nonsense Irishman who hasn’t lost his brogue in spite of over thirty years in Hendon as a public servant and union activist, about his politics and his ambitions for the place he hopes to represent.
SKWAWKBOX: Thanks for your time, Patrick, and congratulations on making the shortlist for Hendon. Have you always wanted to be an MP?
Patrick: No, I’ve been here for thirty-two years and have been busy enough with work and my activities with Unison. I’m not a careerist – I won’t be standing in any other area apart from Hendon. Not all the other candidates on the shortlist can say that.
I’m a local guy, I’ve lived here for thirty-two years on Broadfields Estate, Grahame Park estate, Burnt Oak and I’m now living in Hendon itself. I’ve been involved in local campaigns from day one, including the ‘Kick out Capita’ stuff that’s going on at the minute – Barnet Unison has been fighting council outsourcing for the last ten years.
I don’t have any other agendas, I just want to stand up for the people of Hendon and if I can win, then to help transform this country for the better under Jeremy Corbyn and John.
S: Tell me a little about your politics
P: I’m standing on a ticket of renationalisation of public services – all of them, they belong to us – building council housing and basically everything that was in last year’s general election manifesto. I’ve always been an opponent of austerity, I’m a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and the leadership of our party – I knew Jeremy before he was famous – he came to a Barnet Spring March, I think it was in 2012, along with John McDonnell to support Barnet Unison in trying to keep our services in public ownership. Basically that’s my story.
S: And your involvement in the local party?
P: I’m very active in the local party – I’m vice-chair of Hendon CLP, which hasn’t been met with universal approval by some of the locals on the right of the party who haven’t appreciated a supporter of Jeremy and of Momentum who’s sometimes had to tell them they were talking [crap].
But that goes with the territory. It’s just being honest and that’s what I am.
S: You come highly recommended by John Burgess [picturedat the top of this article a local Unison activist who was journalist-activist Aditya Chakrabortty’s ‘hero of 2015‘ for his fight against Tory cuts], which speaks volumes. He even made a video supporting your candidacy. Do you and he go back a long way?
P: Yes, John and I know each other really well, we’ve been comrades and working together for a long time and I really appreciate his support.
I’m so proud of @4Hendon he is @barnet_unison rep and would make a great @UKLabour MP @edunison @KnowsleyUnison @UNISON_Bolton @UNISONBham @MattRatUNISON @SurreyUNISON @UnisonMcr @UnisonWSx @GwyneddUnison @KarenReissmann @daveauger1 @theresarollin16 @Bridie1961 @SpartacusDurham pic.twitter.com/7qxeZZ74U6
— John Burgess #LabourSocialist (@John_Burgess001) September 16, 2018
S: Now, this being Hendon and the recent epicentre of the antisemitism claims about the Labour Party, I’ve got to ask – what do you make of it all?
P: I did a piece for Labour Briefing and it’s on my site at Hunter4Hendon on WordPress, called ‘A Different Narrative’. There are issues, of course, but a lot of the people making the most noise have just never liked Jeremy Corbyn. They supported Owen Smith in 2016 and in 2017 they did no local campaigning – they all went over to Enfield North to campaign for Joan Ryan, which was such a waste of time. The rest of us got within 353 votes of Villiers in Chipping Barnet and just over a thousand here.
If you’re antisemitic you’ve got no place in the Labour Party, we’re an anti-racist party. But in the local elections this year, we had the same group of people who don’t like Jeremy Corbyn acting like the best way to campaign was to convince local voters that Labour is an antisemitic party.
But what’s interesting when you look at the results is that [one of the most vocal anti-Corbyn councillors] was standing in his seat alongside [a councillor of Jamaican origin] and [a Muslim candidate]. [The vocal anti-Corbyn councillor] had been a councillor of four years and came last. You’ve got to ask who he thought he was speaking to.
S: Thank you. And what’s the closing note you’d like to leave people with at the end of this interview?
P: One of the big issues in Barnet is housing. My thing about housing is you can’t rely on developers building for housing need, you’ve got to take it out of their hands – be much more forthright and say ‘We are going to build council housing and we’re going to end right to buy’.
As for developers, if they’re owning land and won’t develop it with at least fifty percent social housing and at social rent, then we compulsory-purchase it and build council housing. It’s as simple as that. We have to be much more radical, up-front and aggressive about council housing as far as I’m concerned.
The whole thing about working with local developers has never worked. They have a different agenda than meeting people’s housing need. I work in housing, I’m a sheltered housing officer and I’m also the housing convener for Barnet Unison, so it’s a real passion for me and I see the issues, including homelessness on our streets, as something that needs to be addressed urgently.
Based on the interview and his support among outstanding Labour and union activists, Patrick Hunter is by a long distance the outstanding candidate for Hendon.
If you’re a Labour member in the constituency, please do whatever it takes to get to the hustings, which take place today at 2pm at Broadfields School, Roseberry Drive HA8 8JP. Don’t forget to take your membership card and ID.
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