Ham&High Podcast: Catherine West MP on Labour’s challenge, housing and her Netflix tip

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

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

“I think there is a sizeable number of people who feel we’re not on their side and that is a massive challenge...”

Ham&High Podcast

Ham&High Podcast - Credit: Archant

That is the verdict on the challenge ahead for Labour of Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West.

The shadow foreign minister for Europe and the Americas was speaking to the Ham&High Podcast in an interview which ranged from Netflix recommendations to the current, proposed planning regulations overhaul.

Mrs West, who was a staunch “remain” supporter ahead of the Brexit vote, highlighted the importance of devolved power ensure people feel connected to the political decisions.

“I think there is a sizeable number of people who feel we’re not on their side and that is a massive challenge for government in general, but for the Labour Party because we’re the people’s party and we need to reconnect with our communities and talk to people, and I think that the Brexit vote did show that there was a big disconnect...trying to get across the vision that I was talking about - about being strong within Europe and strong as a united front.

Catherine West MP. Picture: Polly Hancock

Catherine West MP. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

“But then there’s a lot of people who feel that in their hometown or in their region, government hasn’t done enough and it is frustrating when you’re in opposition. Because obviously since 2010 - that’s ten years - 10 years of a Tory government.

“It’s not how we would have done things as the Labour Party, but equally it’s just when you do have a very centralized arrangement such as Westminster that that disconnect can feel very stark, and I think that’s why some of the devolved regions may have done a bit better than in England, really, because we have got a lot of people who seem to be really, really unhappy.”

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Planning reform is back on the table, thanks to the government’s Planning For the Future white paper, which is under consultation, but Mrs West is concerned about the direction it is taking.

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“I’m a little worried because last time they did this, in 2010, the Tory government then allowed lots of conversions from officers into houses because of the global financial crash, which sounds good on paper. The only trouble is it completely bypassed the local authority planning system and we ended up with a lot of low quality, expensive, privately rented flats and I don’t think that builds a really sustainable community.

“I think we do need more genuinely affordable homes, so at the moment you know what is classed as affordable can be 80% of the market rate. Now you can’t afford that if you’re a caretaker in your school or if you’re a music teacher at the Haringey Music Service. And and I think we are beginning to introduce what’s called the local rent scheme under Sadiq Khan, which is good because it looks at what’s the average income in a ward - so in an electoral ward - and then it calculates the rent of the social home, and I think that’s one step forward, but I would hope that with the planning regulations that are going to be introduced by Mr Johnson’s government, he won’t go as radical as what he is saying, which means virtually no social housing unless you have a development which is, almost, over 1,500 flats. Because at the moment if it’s a development of over 10 units...it really should be 40% or 50% social homes.”

When she is not working, Mrs West does find a small amount of time to switch off. She is a keen swimmer and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Swimming.

While citing documentaries, including the BBC’s Panorama as good viewing, she said: “I’ve been watching Jane the Virgin with my daughter, which is just when you completely want to relax and switch off because we’re up to chapter 50 and we’re still only halfway through,” she said.

“That’s nice. It’s got a little bit of Spanish in it and I’d like to learn Spanish properly one day. But that’s fun and it means we just basically switch on the TV and have a cup of tea and laugh, and that’s really nice.”

For the full audio interview, and others in our podcast series, simply go to https://podfollow.com/hamhigh/.