Lib Dem leader on Hampstead visit

THE leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has called on voters in Hampstead to back his party s candidate Ed Fordham in the upcoming elections over semi-disengaged Labour MP Glenda Jackson. The MP for Sheffield Hallam believes voters

Susanna Wilkey

THE leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg has called on voters in Hampstead to back his party's candidate Ed Fordham in the upcoming elections over "semi-disengaged" Labour MP Glenda Jackson.

The MP for Sheffield Hallam believes voters in Hampstead and Kilburn have a clear cut choice between Mr Fordham and incumbent Ms Jackson.

He said: "Even before Ed Fordham has been elected as an MP he seems to be regarded by people locally as a local champion particularly at a time when people are fed up with politics after the expenses scandal.

"People will vote for him because they want an articulate local champion not just another politician. And a lot of people do not understand what Cameron and the Conservatives are telling them."

The Lib Dem leader visited the Ham&High area on Friday to launch new plans aimed at supporting small shops suffering heavily in the recession.

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He outlined proposals to change planning rules to ensure a fairer balance between independent stores and large supermarkets, automatic business rate relief for smaller businesses and the development of a post office bank to give post offices a future.

Mr Clegg said: "There is a real threat to the identity of high roads and small shops up and down the country. We think that these proposals will make a huge difference keeping things alive locally."

The MP, who has been the leader of the Liberal Democrats since December 2007, also slammed Boris Johnson for the line closures, which have engulfed the capital's transport system over the past year.

"The transport situation with the tube and train closures is unbelievable," he said. "No-one questions the idea that work needs to be done on these lines. But why are they being done all at the same time.

"I am an avid user of London transport and I know how important it is for people to be able to rely on public transport.

"This seems to be maximising disruption and killing off trade. It does beg questions about what is the point of Boris Johnson.

"He gives us all a bit of a laugh but he cuts police numbers and presides over this transport chaos. When are the jokes going to finish that is what I ask myself."

Faceless bureaucrats making decisions to cut A&Es and maternity wards across the capital has also incensed the party leader who has vowed to put the NHS back into the hands of the people if his party is elected.

Mr Clegg said: "What angers me so much is we get these announcements from these faceless bureaucrats who threaten our public services without asking anyone.

"It is not their NHS to play games with it is ours. I want to see it put back into the hands of people who use it. Rather than constantly changing our services without asking us.

"I cannot understand why the government has got its priorities so wrong. It is threatening closures of A&E and maternity wards when there are layers and layers of administration which could be cut. The Whittington case shows very clearly consultations are just telling people what discussions have already taken place.

"They are a stitch up. It makes me angry that our NHS is being changed like that by the government which has got the gall to say it cares about public services."

Mr Clegg hopes the Liberal Democrat motto of fairness will encourage voters to choose them over Labour or the Conservatives in the upcoming election. He wants to give people the right to sack their MPs if they are found guilty of serious wrongdoing and change the voting system.

"Fairness is the main thing we will be campaigning on," he said. "We want to see a big change in our tax system that would benefit thousands of people on low incomes by raising the income tax personal allowance to �10,000. We want fairness in schools, the tax system, in the way we run the economy. I hope people will vote with their hearts."

Mr Clegg's visit to Hampstead and Kilburn will be followed by a visit from the Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable next Thursday, February 25.

Ham&High readers are being asked to put their questions to the politician. Email yours to editorial by February 22 or call the newsdesk on 020-7433 6217.

The public event is at Pax Lodge, Hampstead at 7pm.