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Ross Houston: 'My shoulder injury shows why NHS is creaking at the seams' says Labour hopeful

PUBLISHED: 11:00 28 November 2019

Ross Houston, the Labour candidate for Finchley and Golders Green. Picture: Barnet Labour

Ross Houston, the Labour candidate for Finchley and Golders Green. Picture: Barnet Labour

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Any seasoned election campaigner has heard excuses from activists as to why they can't deliver leaflets.

However it's a bit different when it's the candidate. Yet Ross Houston's shoulder injury from his work as a housing officer has shown him why the NHS needs to be better funded, he says.

Cllr Houston suffered a fractured shoulder in the summer. He says that without private physiotherapy paid for by his work, his recovery would have been slower.

The West Finchley councillor added that staff at Barnet General were "rushed off their feet" and a lack of fans on the hottest day of the year meant he wasn't able to sleep and recover, but praised the care he received as "excellent."

"It's driven home how much it's creaking at the seams. There's no point in paying for best in the world surgery and people not making as full a recovery as they can," he said.

He added Labour's plan for a 4.3 per cent increase in health spending, free dental care, repealing the 2013 Health and Social Care Act and ending privatisation in the NHS embodied its founding principles for "cradle to grave" care.

"It's about proving care in an efficient way that allows that care for our population. It's the most effective way to do it," he adds.

Cllr Houston grew up in Kircaldy, a Scottish mining town in the 1980s which saw its two major collieries closed. His friends' fathers were made redundant. He went on to become involved in student politics at Queen Mary's University where he was involved its anti-apartheid committee. He was elected to Barnet Council in 2006 and has lived in Finchley for two decades.

The Labour candidate said the party's policies would be "common sense" in Europe, that its Green New Deal was "ambitious" and added that even in north London, the party's extension of fibre-optic would be welcomed.

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The 52-year-old said: "What is painted as extremely left-wing, radical, undeliverable policies by the Conservatives, Angela Merkel wouldn't bat an eyelid at.

"I don't think we can wait another five years to deal with the climate emergency. This is the first time one of the two major parties has offered a platform to tackle climate change in an ambitious enough way to deal with it."

He also backs the party's plans for increased fibre-optic internet coverage by a nationalised provider. "Large swathes of London can't get it, and that's 20 years after we were supposed to go down this route. Is it available in rural Cumbria? Absolutely not."

However one area that he does agree with Mr Freer on is that the election is a two-way contest between them. He says that he worries the Lib Dem vote could split them. Both say the Labour and Tory votes are holding up compared to 2017.

"I don't see a path to victory for the Liberal Democrats apart from helping Mike Freer retain his seat by splitting the opposition vote," he said. "We all know us and the Tories have a good ground operation and have respected local councillors.

"[The Lib Dems] have no idea how people voted previously. They have no data. They are throwing national money at it, but there is a 20,000 gap between Labour and the Lib Dems. I know their core vote is 3,500 and ours is considerably higher."

He dodges a question on whether Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is a barrier to his parties own policies ever being put into action, saying instead that "there's a lot of issues in this election.

"Jeremy was the most convincing in the Friday debate on BBC1. There's real issues about the suitability of Boris Johnson to become prime minister, especially on trust. Economically the Tory proposals on Brexit are ruinous."

Unsurprisingly the Labour Party's issues with antisemitism is coming up with voters. He admits it was "mishandled" by the party and repeats his call for an independent process in the party to handle it. "We all need to fight antisemitism. We have taken a strong stance in standing with the Jewish Labour movement and we need to do better. I want our constituency to be represented by someone who is an advocate for our party."

Yet he is bullish about his chances, and becoming the seat's first Labour MP since Rudi Vis.

"I think the polls are narrowing. The Lib Dems are dropping rapidly. Our vote is holding up well and I think we can win."

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