Catherine West: Voters ‘back Labour’s Brexit position’ says Labour’s Hornsey and Wood Green candidate

Catherine West at a recent election rally. Picture: Hornsey and Wood Green Labour

Catherine West at a recent election rally. Picture: Hornsey and Wood Green Labour - Credit: Archant

Despite defending a 30,000 majority from 2017, Labour’s candidate Catherine West said she was “always nervous” about keeping her seat.

But Ms West, first elected in 2015, told this newspaper she was confident a pro-Remain stance, the Labour Party's so-called Green New Deal, and plans to invest heavily in public services would boost support.

She told the Ham&High: "Brexit is still really key. We will have a 'final say' referendum. Most people understand we have to have a neutral position nationally. The fact is that Labour will negotiate a Keir Starmer type deal that's quite easy to understand.

"We would have the customs union to protect the economy and the manufacturing sector.

"That'd be a lock on the Brexit process - either you have a very soft Brexit or, as I will be campaigning for, you have a remain option."

Local Lib Dems have been talking up their chances, citing the EU elections earlier this year as evidence they could cause a shock.

But Ms West thinks campaigning on a manifesto promising high public spending has gone down well. She said: "The other issue coming up on the doorstep is public services.

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Almost everyone in the area cares about social justice. People are worrying about cuts to schools, hospitals, the police."

She said she felt voters would welcome tax increases "if it means we can get those people sleeping outside of Wood Green and Finsbury Park stations into homes".

Ms West continued: "These things are only going to get better if there's a serious cash injection."

As for concerns about the Labour Party's record dealing with antisemitism, she added: "Antisemitism has been a problem on the doorstep in parts of the constituency." She said she had held meetings with local Jewish leaders and her rep on the Labour national executive committee in order to help tackle the issue. She added; "We held the mirror up to ourselves, but we have not repaired that relationship yet [with the Jewish community]. I will welcome the Equalities and Human Rights Commission report. I see it as an Ofsted report that will tell us what can do and what we need to do."

Ms West added that she felt voters had been enthused by teenage activist Greta Thunberg and the climate crisis was "the other really important thing" on the campaign trail. Backing Labour's plans to launch "green apprenticeships" and boost environmental industry, she said "We are taking this seriously, but I have just heard lip service from the Tories."

She added that Labour's "windfall tax" plan for oil and gas companies "would help to bring forward some of our ideas" for funding an expansion of the renewable energy sector and "a move to the decarbonisation of our power".

The former shadow minister also felt convinced more needed to be done to encourage people to make the switch to electric vehicles and greener transport.

She said: "As a London MP I have been looking carefully at the lack of opportunity for scrappage schemes for polluting cars. If we want an electric car revolution we need to offer something more appropriate than there is now.

"And we need to make travel more public transport more affordable for more people."

Ms West also praised the Labour Party's plan to compensate the 'WASPI' women born in the 1950s who saw the state pension age raised just as they were set to retire.

She explained: "These kind of people are people who have been working as nurses, dinner ladies all their lives only to then find out they would have to work until they were 67.

Ms West, who led Islington Council for three years until 2013, added that she would like to see "compulsory voter registration" to make it easier for people to vote. She said: "Every election day, without fail, I speak to someone who's asking how they can register to vote, but it's obviously too late."

And if re-elected, what would Catherine West hope to do in parliament? "I would like to go back on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee if I can. Over the past year or so we have all been tied to the chamber, and we haven't been able to focus on anything else [other than Brexit]."

Summing up her party's pitch to voters in Hornsey and Wood Green though, the candidate concluded: "I feel as a party we have a really positive offer. It does have to paid for and I think Labour are being really upfront about that."