Dawn Barnes: Hornsey and Wood Green candidate backs stopping Brexit, boosting education and encouraging migration
PUBLISHED: 16:30 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:53 09 December 2019
“It definitely feels a lot more positive than in 2017 for us.”
Crouch End councillor Dawn Barnes is in her third fight for a seat in parliament. This time, she's hopeful her party's "biggest ever" membership can propel the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats into power.
She explained to the Ham&High why she was pleased with her party's policy to revoke the decision to leave the EU. She said: "This is a Remain constituency. I'm a Remainer. I've long been asking for a referendum where we could vote on a deal or Remain. It would have been lovely for that to be supported in parliament, but it wasn't."
In Hornsey and Wood Green, the contest is widely viewed as between two vocally pro-Remain voices, but Cllr Barnes said Catherine West's pro-remain credentials were immaterial. "Whether the local MP will or will not vote remain is one matter but Labour want Brexit." She said Labour's approach to remain neutral would mirror the unsucessful campaign for the alternative vote system held in 2011. "There was nobody driving it," she said.
Cllr Barnes works in higher education and was elected a councillor in 2018. She said: "Brexit and the environment are the big issues. The two are really connected. For example documents showed the government was planning to source products that we currently get from Spain from Australia. Also, without the EU I think we lose our voice when it comes to the climate."
In this year's European elections, the Lib Dems came top in Haringey. Speaking from her temporary campaign office in Topsfield Parade in Crouch End, the councillor was hopeful the voters who backed her party in May would stick with them now.
She said: "It's this side of the constituency that pulled Haringey over the line. If everyone went out and voted the same then this would definitely be a Lib Dem gain - but obviously these elections are a very different beast."
Until 2015, Hornsey and Wood Green was held by Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone, but after serving in the coalition government, the now-Baroness was one of many to lose their seats in the fallout. The hopeful said the party's record hadn't "come up that often".
She explained: "Now we have had a majority Tory government I think people can see the good the Lib Dems did and the things we stopped them doing. We were always going to struggle in 2015, and we could have possibly listened more carefully to what people were telling us.
"Obviously we were in the coalition, which some people don't like, but there were some good things we did."
Pushed on the positives of the Lib Dems' coalition record she cited introducing the pupil premium - funding "targeted at the youngest kids", and increasing the income tax personal allowance.
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"Increasing the personal allowance helped people."
Part of the councillor's pitch hinges on the 'Remain bonus' the Lib Dems are arguing would see money saved by avoiding Brexit that could then be plowed into public services.
A related topic is of course immigration. Cllr Barnes explained that if the Conservatives' plans to limit skilled immigration came into force, schools and hospitals would struggle.
She said: "Clearly I work for a university. A lot of our staff are paid less than £35,000. I you don't get paid that, there's a Tory proposal that you don't stay in this country. I can't imagine how you run a school or a hospital if that's brought it."
More generally, while trumpeting the benefits of freedom of movement within the EU, Cllr Barnes is thoughtful about the idea of extending that.
She said: "It's difficult. We have got a really nice deal with the EU. We can move there and as well, and use services there. It's more difficult in other countries. There's a part of me that would go 'yeah, let's have full-on freedom of movement because we get so much from immigrations. I don't think we should close down our borders. There are a lot of people doing really really creative work that who wouldn't be able to come here because they don't earn enough money."
This year, education is a priority. She said: "We would fund 20,000 new teachers, schools badly need a boost.
"We would fill the funding gap that's been a problem for the last few years."
The Lib Dems have often argued for electoral reform in order to introduce an allegedly fairer voting system. Cllr Barnes is all for their current manifesto promise to introduce the Single Transferrable Vote system. She said: "I think a lot of people in this country feel they don't have any representation.
"As much as I am never ever going to be a supporter of Ukip or the Brexit Party, a proportional system would give you a mix of MPs to go to with concerns.
"And it might produce more stable government. We don't know - we have never followed it through."