The only Lewisham constituency to border the Thames, Lewisham, Deptford is a melting pot of youthful creativity and budding gentrification but also considerable deprivation. Long-serving Labour MP Joan Ruddock vacates the seat for the first time since 1987, and replacement candidate Vicky Foxcroft has wasted no time in parlaying her record of defending public services as a local councillor into a highly visible campaign.
Lewisham, Deptford is formed of seven wards: Evelyn, New Cross, Brockley, Telegraph Hill, Ladywell, Crofton Park and Lewisham Central.
According to UK Polling Report, 46 per cent of the constituency’s population is under the age of 35, followed by 36 per cent between the ages of 35 and 54. This is due in part to the presence of Goldsmiths, University of London and the Docklands Light Railway extension, which enables graduates and young professionals to commute quickly to central London. The constituency is also one of the most diverse in London, with only 36 per cent of residents identifying as White British and the rest consisting of a mix of ethnicities.
Evelyn ward is booming as a result of its Thameside location. Vibrant New Cross, with its nightlife and entertainment, caters mostly to students and young artists. Brockley is starting to attract young professionals and families, following a familiar pattern of trending and gentrification. The central and southern wards, however, are experiencing severe poverty and high crime rates. In February 2015, the constituency reported crime figures exceeding those of Lewisham East and Lewisham West and Penge combined.
Lewisham Council is one of the authorities that will have to cut its budget by £39.9 million in the next 12 months, placing it at the top of the league table for cuts in London. This is expected to have a notable impact on public services, making cuts a key election issue in the constituency.
Darren Johnson, the first Green Party councillor to be elected in Brockley before standing down in 2014, has campaigned against these cuts. Johnson described them as having a “disastrous impact” on the most vulnerable in the community. “Green Party councillors protect the vulnerable and work towards closing this gap,” Johnson said in his election profile.
The Green Party has seen an increase in support in Lewisham, Deptford in recent years; however, they finished fourth in the constituency behind Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives in the 2010 general election.
Lewisham, Deptford has been a Labour stronghold since 1935, and is no immediate danger of falling to another party. Labour won by a large majority in 2010, bagging 54 per cent of the votes, followed by the Liberal Democrats with 23 per cent. Speculation is that the next Lewisham MP will be Labour’s Vicky Foxcroft, taking over from incumbent MP Joan Ruddock.
Vicky Foxcroft – Labour
Foxcroft, like the Greens, has put public services at the forefront of her campaign. Foxcroft’s profile on the Labour Party website describes her as “passionate about protecting public services, including health, education and emergency services.” Her success in saving Lewisham Hospital A&E from closure has given her significant political capital and will not harm her chances of attracting votes.
In order to fund public services, Foxcroft is advocating the abolition of the “non-dom” tax status, which has been a source of scandal since leaked HSBC documents revealed the extent of the tax avoidance and evasion committed under this concession. The non-dom status allows UK residents whose permanent address is outside the UK to pay no UK tax on their foreign income.
— vickyfoxcroft (@vickyfoxcroft) April 8, 2015
According to The Guardian, the numbers of those claiming non-dom tax status doubled under Tony Blair’s Labour leadership between 1997 and 2007. The Lewisham Labour Party’s housing policy also came in for heavy criticism in October last year, when Generation Rent voiced concerns that the policy would mean the exploitation of renters by landlords and would negatively impact social housing in the area.
Bim Afolami – Conservative
Conservative candidate Bim Afolami is an Oxford-educated corporate lawyer with a greater social media presence than any of the other candidates. Many of his messages are clearly designed to appeal to younger voters. Afolami has defended at length the Conservatives’ decision to triple university tuition fees, asking students to pay back when they can afford it. He also tweets about students’ apprenticeships and jobs.
— NUS UK (@nusuk) October 29, 2014
Afolami’s campaign focuses on local issues that directly impact the constituency, rather than on national issues like EU membership or immigration. He tweets regularly about supporting small independent retailers, more trains to central London, better schools, affordable housing, apprenticeship programmes and jobs.
His twitter feed makes no mention of austerity cuts or the creeping privatisation of the NHS, though they are key issues in this election.
Nationally, the coalition government passed a law in 2012 that exposes the NHS to rapid privatisation; locally, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt failed in his attempt tried to downgrade Lewisham hospital’s casualty and maternity units in 2012 when local pressure groups challenged his decision in court. The High Court ruled Hunt’s decision “unlawful.”
Michael Bukola – Liberal Democrat
Liberal Democrat candidate Michael Bukola failed to win hearts and minds at a Lewisham, Deptford hustings at Goldsmiths on March 25, when he described himself as a tax advisor to multinational corporations.
“Helping big business avoid taxes to boost profits is not going to endear him to the electorate,” said the Alternative SE4 blog. “Our advice? Know your constituency,” the blog read.
But knowing his constituency is Bukola’s main selling point. Peckham born and bred, Bukola says he’s the man for the job because he understands local issues better than any of the other candidates. His candidacy profile details his efforts to address youth anti-social behaviour, youth service provision and the regeneration of Lewisham, Deptford.
Labour and the Greens are attacking austerity cuts, a legacy of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, and calling to an end to cuts in the next parliament.
Bukola defends his party’s support for austerity policies: “Unemployment falling, wages raising and inflation rock-bottom for the first time in our lifetime… I am proud of our record as Liberal Democrats in government. Mistakes were made, but overall the future is bright [as a result of] taking difficult and unpopular decisions in the short term.”
There is speculation that Bukola is likely to fall short of the 23 per cent vote share taken by the Liberal Democrats in 2010.
Massimo Dimambro – UKIP
John Coughlin – Green
Philip Badger – Democratic Reform Party
Chris Flood – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Chris Flood on Twitter
David Harvey – Independent
Malcolm Martin – Christian People’s Alliance
Christian People’s Alliance on Twitter
Helen Mercer – Lewisham People Before Profit
Helen Mercer on Twitter