Hampstead and Kilburn: Culture secretary Karen Bradley on Brexit, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and local press
PUBLISHED: 13:55 05 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:19 05 May 2017
A government minister visited Hampstead this morning to campaign for Conservative parliamentary candidate Claire-Louise Leyland.
Secretary of state for culture, media and sport Karen Bradley discussed Brexit, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the role of local press as she canvassed for Hampstead and Kilburn hopeful Ms Leyland.
Ms Bradley said Ms Leyland – a councillor for Belsize and leader of the opposition in Camden – has a long record of fighting hard for the area.
“She’s a great local candidate who’s done fantastic work,” she said, explaining that she had “read lots” about her before meeting her for the first time today.
“She’s clearly someone who cares passionately about this area.”
But Ms Bradley was keen to stress – like Ms Leyland herself – that the Tory candidate is also the prime minister’s candidate.
“With Theresa May you get strong and stable leadership,” she said, adding that a vote for Ms Leyland would strengthen the prime minister’s hand.
On Brexit, Ms Bradley stressed the need to “move on” from the EU referendum and concentrate on working for the best deal for Britain.
Highlighting that she voted Remain herself, Ms Bradley said: “Whatever your position on Brexit, I’m sure we all agree we need a strong hand to negotiate and deliver the best deal for the whole country.”
Asked if the Tories’ position on Europe would hurt Ms Leyland (who voted Remain) in a constituency that voted overwhelming to stay in the EU, Ms Bradley referred to her own experience.
“I voted to stay but my constituency [Staffordshire Moorlands] voted to leave,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean I can’t stand up for them and represent them.”
She added: “We voted to leave as a nation and we have to get on with the job – there’s no point in trying to re-run the referendum campaign.”
To the thousands of EU citizens living in Hampstead and Kilburn, Ms Bradley stressed that contrary to the “scaremongering” on the issue, “mass deportations is not going to happen” – but admitted that a deal on their right to stay must be part of negotiations.
“We want an early solution for the EU nationals,” she said. “We want a reciprocal arrangement.
“But any suggestion we could somehow make a unilateral decision on EU citizens just won’t work in practice.”
Ms Leyland added: “There are so many people in this area not sure where they are going to be. I know how unsettling it is.”
Ms Bradley also offered her views on the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a West Hampstead mother imprisoned in Iran on strongly disputed charges.
She related her own experience with a similar case in Staffordshire, where one of her constituents was wrongly convicted of murder in Italy before being cleared – in part thanks to Ms Bradley’s campaigning.
“As an MP, you can really make that difference,” she said.
“And having an MP in the governing party gives you access to ministers in a way you can’t as an opposition MP.”
Ms Leyland added that she will “work tirelessly” to secure Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release and make sure it is “at the forefront of people’s minds”.
“I know how hard it’s been for her husband [Richard] in particular,” she said.
“It’s a very complicated situation.”
Ms Bradley – a Wood&Vale reader – also said she, like “every MP”, appreciates local newspapers and was committed to seeing them prosper.
“We’ve looked at business rates for local papers – we want to make sure we give them the ability to succeed,” she said, praising in particular the Ham&High’s Save Our Pubs campaign.
She added: “It’s only because because the likes of the Ham&High highlight these things that they are resolved.”
Ms Leyland agreed, praising the area’s “amazing press” and the “fantastic” stories that are often picked up by national media.
She said: “I’m very concerned at the amount of money being put into the council magazine.
“We think it’s far better done by an independent local press.”