It's decision time.
In 24 hours, either I'll have been re-elected, or Tooting will have a right-wing Tory MP.
If you've been reading my blog and news updates for a while, you'll appreciate the impact that an MP can have on the local area.
From the £8 million re-build of Earlsfield Station (the planning application is with the council) to supporting residents in their campaign to prevent the Springfield Hospital mega-development, I'm proud of what I've been able to achieve.
And I'm proud of the progress made since 1997: waiting times slashed at St George's, school results massively improved, crime down by a third, local unemployment 40% lower, dramatic falls in pensioner poverty, huge increases in overseas aid... the list goes on.
This hasn't happened by chance. Politics has a bad reputation - often deserved -- but it really matters. I don't pretend things are perfect. They never can be, and I'm standing for re-election because there is more to be done.
The choice before you is whether we continue the fight - and it is always a fight - to make things better. Or whether to give up and go back to the old attitudes that the government shouldn't help those (here or abroad) in need.
That's the attitude that saw mass unemployment and poverty in Tooting. It saw local kids, like me, educated in Portakabins with holes in the roof. And it saw waiting more than 18 months for an operation at St George's be the norm. The Guardian today called my Tory opponent "fiercely anti-state". I think that's an accurate description. And those of you who've lived in our area for a while know what that means.
Be clear: a Tory MP here means a majority Tory government, cutting schools funding, cutting police officers, cutting tax credits that local people rely on. Their priority, as ever, is tax breaks for the very richest. Other constituencies may be different, but in Tooting only by voting for me can you stop this happening.
It is a two-horse race here. The election will be close. You need to approach it as if you are casting the decisive vote: do you want me or the Tory candidate to be elected? It has been the greatest privilege to represent my patch, where I was born, brought up and am now bringing up my girls. What happens in this community matters so much to me and my family and I promise to continue the fight to make it a better place.
Thank you for your support over the last five years, and thank you in advance for your support at the ballot box on Thursday.
And don't forget the council elections They don't have the same profile as the general election, but on Thursday you will also be electing the three councillors for your local area. Wandsworth Council is Tory-run, and to be honest I don't expect that to change at this election. What is needed is an effective opposition, to keep the Tories honest. I give two examples of why this matters.
First, Tooting town centre. A former Tory councillor publicly admitted that Tooting Tories were being ignored by the council’s Conservative leaders. It was only when Labour’s campaigning made it a political issue that the council began to take action. There’s much that needs to be done, and in other shopping areas.
Labour councillors will keep up the pressure. Second, road maintenance. The Tories cut road maintenance by 40%. Labour councillors opposed this and proposed cuts in bonuses for Town Hall managers earning over £100,000 that would fund fixing our streets. The Tories refused to support this. Only residents’ outrage at the state of our roads made them take some, limited action ahead of the election.
We can expect them to return to their programme of cuts after polling day unless they are held to account. With the Tories currently having 51 of the 60 council seats, there is an urgent need for a larger, unified opposition group. There have never been any Lib Dem councillors in Wandsworth. And to be frank, any vote for them divides the opposition to the Tories and risks turning Wandsworth into a one-party state.
Labour councillors will work hard, keep in touch and serve the whole community. I’m proud of all our council candidates in Tooting constituency and I strongly encourage you to trust them with your vote.
If you'd like to help my campaign on the day, please come to our office at 220-222 Upper Tooting Road, SW17 7EW, or call 020 8767 9660 now.
- Polls will be open from 7am to 10pm on Thursday.
- You don't need your poll card to vote (but it makes voting a little bit quicker).
- If you're not sure where your polling station is, or you need a lift to get there, call my campaign office on 020 8767 9660.
- If you have still to return your postal vote, you can take it (in the envelopes supplied) to any polling station in Wandsworth borough.