The Lewisham Deptford Elections: Gemma Townsend

This Q&A is part of Brockley Central's virtual hustings. Gemma Townsend, the Conservative Party candidate for Lewisham Deptford, answers our questions. Click for Tam Langley, Darren Johnson and Joan Ruddock's answers.

1. Outside of morning peak time, overland services to London Bridge have been cut from 6 trains per hour to four trains per hour. What will you do to restore the levels of service, which were promised until last year?

I’ve already met with Conservative Assembly Members on the London Assembly and other Conservative candidates in SE London to discuss the problems, identify other services being effected and consider solutions. I will also be raising the issue with the Party’s Shadow Minister for London when she comes to visit the constituency later this week.

If elected I’ll take two clear steps. Firstly meet with Teressa Villiers and Stephen Hammond (Shadow Transport Secretary and Minister), to highlight the local impact of cuts. Secondly, I would work with others set up a cross party working group of elected representatives from across SE London to agree clear priorities for transport in SE London and a clear plan for lobbying on these issues.

2. Do you support the local campaign to revive plans for the South London Loop service to Crofton Park?

I live one minute walk from the station and sadly rarely find the service of any use, meaning Brockley is my local station. It’s vital we get a decent service running through the station if we want more small businesses to continue investing in Crofton Park. It’s also vital that the area as a whole has proper transport links with SW and central London.

I’ve discussed this with Conservative Assembly Members and they and the Mayor have been clear from the start, the Department for Transport must fund these plans. The Mayor has asked TfL to conduct a study with London TravelWatch to consider the options. The report is due next month, by which point we will have a clearer idea of the situation and what the next steps may be.

3. What, specifically, will you do to ensure that the Surrey Canal Station gets built during the extension of the East London Line to Clapham Junction?

The Government promised us that if Boris (through TfL) and Lewisham Council could find £3m of the £10m needed to build the Surrey Canal Road Station, then the Government would fund the remaining £7m. Boris and Lewisham worked hard to fund their side of the deal. The Government has failed to deliver on this promise. My first step would be to meet with Teressa Villiers and Stephen Hammond to discuss the proposals. Secondly, I’d work with the Mayor and Conservative Assembly Members to put more pressure on the Government. I’d also want to explore what other options are available.

4. What will your top priority for Lewisham Deptford be and what are you going to do about it?

Education. I want parents to stay in Lewisham as their family grows and not feel that moving is the only option for decent secondary education. A Conservative Government will restore discipline in the classroom, raise standards by raising the bar for trainee teachers and give heads more power. We want to make it much easier for educational charities, or groups of parents and teachers cooperatives to start up Academies, like the successful Haberdashers Aske Federation.

I’ve worked for Ofsted and I’m currently on the management board at Abbey Manor College in Lewisham. In my professional opinion all schools benefit from sharing good practise. I would encourage the council to establish more formal links between schools to share best practise on tackling specific issues.

5. How will you reduce crime and improve policing in Lewisham Deptford?

I work developing policing and crime policies for the Mayor of London. I speak to police officers every day and they tell me form filling is completely out of hand. Conservative’s will let the police do their job with less form filling, they will completely scrap the ‘stop’ form and restore discretion to police officers, so they can respond quickly and easily to minor misdemeanours.

Locally I’d promote better communication after serious incidents occur, like the Brockley shootings. This could be as simple as having local police notice boards to communicate the facts and regular updates. It’s particularly important that locally we find better ways to communicate the facts to groups that don’t always access to the internet, like pensioners.

6. How can national government help Lewisham Council improve its performance and achieve its aims?

Of the councils with the top 20 highest ‘overall satisfaction’ ratings by their residents in the country, 16 are Conservative. They also provide better value for money, in London Conservative’s charge £38 a year less than Labour on Council Tax and £307 a year less than the Liberal democrats. As a priority the Government must do more to share existing good practise to help councils like Lewisham.

A Conservative Government will allow councils to return to the committee system of local government, promote ward budgets for councillors and scrap flawed predetermination budgets rules which hinder councillors from championing the interests of local residents. Local residents will also be able to petition to hold a referendum on any local issue.

7. What is the one policy you support that you would most like Brockley Central readers to know about?

As crime is such a concern locally, I want readers to know about our plans to help people exit crime. Currently over half of offenders re-offend within a year.

Conservatives want to see a rehabilitation revolution, with post rehabilitation service providers paid by results. It means the company or charity commissioned to deliver the service has to think long and hard about the individual needs, and if they get it wrong, they don’t get paid! This is what the Mayor has done in Feltham, a Young Offenders Institute, so far there have been amazing results. The Conservatives will also try out a new scheme to create Prison and Rehabilitation Trusts, which would mean the right support could continue after prison.

8. Name one thing in the party manifesto with which you personally disagree?

I personally would like to have seen some specific focus on tackling emerging crimes like the use of dangerous dogs in London. It comes up a lot in certain parts of the constituency and it’s a real problem for London as a whole.

49 comments:

Billie said...

I saw Gemma at the Fuel Poverty event last year, and she was totally different from what I had expected. Perhaps I had misconceptions of what torys are like, but she was feisty, very articulate and had a campaigning "woman on the street" attitude. I don't think she has got a chance of winning in Brockley, but if the torys are wise (yeah, I know guys, big if) they should make more use of her. If not, maybe she should join the LDs, she's more impressive than their candidate. And I believe Ms Townsend is genuinely local and has lived in the constituency for some time.

Anonymous said...

Sweeping generalisation alert... but the problem with Tories is that they always come across very well because they are slick and calculating - everything is about looking the part and sounding genuine. Unfortunately I wouldn't trust any of them as far as i can throw them as ultimately they're all about looking out for themselves. No different to Labour at the moment, but that's another story.

Geoff said...

Yes, I used to think like Anonymous, I have never voted Tory in general elections before, but I saw her at utrophia and she was very refreshing. Lets face it, labour have been in power here locally and nationally for years, they have no-one else to blame for their failures. Darren Johnson is articulate and has some good ideas but also some barmy ones, and he is the ultimate politician in that he spends all his time publicising himself and hacking on the London Assembly. Tamara the lib Dem lady came across like a dripping flower at utrophia. I quite like Ian Page but I don't think he's adjusted to the reality of life in 2010, he seems to be wanting to refight past battles. I wasn't sure about making the leap to voting tory, but I did it for the first time with Boris and I think I'll go again with Gemma, she has really impressed me, and she is the only candidate who has delivered to me apart from Joan Ruddock. Not sure about the mayor though, I think I might go with Hamilton, some of his views are a bit antiquated but his heart seems in the right place.

Tillie Town said...

Funny that her priority is education and she can't spell! Actually, that apart, I think she's a really strong candidate. Agree with Geoff about the Mayor; the Tory man Nundy gives me the creeps.

Anonymous said...

"Conservative’s will let the police do their job with less form filling, they will completely scrap the ‘stop’ form and restore discretion to police officers, so they can respond quickly and easily to minor misdemeanours"

Given how deeply ingrained racism is in our police force, giving the power to stop and search with a lack of record will dissproportionally effect ethnic minoties. How can a cadidate for an area with such mixed population support such a dubious measure?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, you have to ask why the forms are there in the first place. In the next election we'll be hearing now they want to make the force "fully accountable" - it's just a revolving cycle of bollocks.

Anonymous said...

They shouldn't need to stop and search - they should stop and have a friendly chat and get to know the people on their beat, then they should use their training and common sense (if there is any of that in the police force) to spot problems before they arise.

Tillie Town said...

Anonymous, doesn't sound like a dubious measure to me. Cracking down on minor misdemeanours could prevent more serious crimes, and remember that ethnic minorities have been disproprtionately the victims of crime too. I've been stopped by police in the past while innocently walking around and, while I admit to feeling slightly miffed at the time, I was also pleased that the police were trying to maintain a safe environment. I have worked quite a bit with police and don't think they are racist these days - the culture has changed quite substantially; still quite a bit of sexism though, from my experience!

BrockleyBiker said...

"I have worked quite a bit with police and don't think they are racist these days - the culture has changed quite substantially; still quite a bit of sexism though, from my experience!"

Blair Peach 30 years ago. Ian Tomlinson 1 year ago.

Bollocks they have changed.

woahhh! said...

Geoff makes a good point. I've always voted Labour up to 2001. But I went Lib Dem last time beacause frankly, Labour had failed big time. They made out that they were there to make life easier for us but in reality they became complacent and intolerant (demonstrated by the Prime Minister's behavior yesterday). I had never even considered voting Conservative - perhaps I had been inadvertantly sucked into a mindset to automatically dismiss them, certainly in this area - they didn't seem to bother putting up decent candidates, maybe they couldn't find any. But this time round, the Lib Dem candidate comes across as feeble, and I'm fed up of seeing Darren Johnson who is really just a professional politician, always on panel discussions or on TV, but not really able to relate to people like me trying to make a living in the real world. I don't share the attitude of the second commenter - I think we've reached the point where we need some fresh thinking to get us out of the cycle we are in - and for once the Conservatives have a candidate with a fresh attitude that I could vote for. Good luck Gemma, you may not win but I appreciate the way that you are prepared to stand up for people like me in Deptford.

Brockley Nick said...

@woahhh! "I appreciate the way that you are prepared to stand up for people like me in Deptford."

I'm interested to know what you mean by this. Without giving away anything you don't feel comfortable with, what sort of issues, relevant to you is she fighting for?

Monkeyboy said...

"hard working families" or is the trite Labour strap line.

Monkeyboy said...

Au is the chemical symbol for gold.... Joint second? We could have been a contender!

(sorry, off topic)

Woahhh! said...

Brockley Nick, well for a start she is keen to promote the growth of businesses in Deptford, which in my experience bring wealth to an area and brings an area "up". Coupled with her ideas on crime, it seems that she is not afraid to consider new ideas to give the community more confidence in their area and make the environment more pleasing. I used to dismiss such ideas as being relevant to "other people", but slowly I have realised that the alternative risks economic and social decline, which is not something I want for myself or my children, who are going to be saddled with the government's massive debt for years to come. Thank you, I am not a politician, I just base my views on my own experience and observations, like I guess we all do.

Brockley Nick said...

@MB I know! I'm sorry! We walked away with the whole second prize anyway, so no harm done really. Does that mean we all have to go to lunch together?

PS - and they were Keeley Hazell's breasts.

Brockley Nick said...

@Woahhh! thanks for the detailed response. Very interesting.

Monkeyboy said...

Hmmmm... I'm not familiar with keeley. I shall have
to do some in depth googling to find out more.

Agree about new bussinesses, but surley all mainstream parties should be doing that? Does she have specific ideas other than random 'encouragement'

Brockley Nick said...

@MB - she is a Lewisham celeb.

tyrwhitt michael said...

Which party is Keeley Hazell standing for?

Brockley Nick said...

She was going to be my running mate, until Love Detective offered his services.

tyrwhitt michael said...

That would be the April Fool alliance then.....

Monkeyboy said...

I can see it now...

" yes LD, dialectical materialism is all very well but.. Ooohhh, nice shoes!"

Woahhh! said...

Monkeyboy, in answer to your specific point, I think her policies include resisting the increase in National Insurance, which will be an extra burden on businesses trying to employ people. Also, I believe the Conservative policy is to refocus tax credits on small businesses and start-ups. Like I said, I'm not a politician, but I don't think the other parties have issued policies that address these concerns in this way.

Monkeyboy said...

I can see it now...

" yes LD, dialectical materialism is all very well but.. Ooohhh, nice shoes!"

Danja said...

Did my comment get deleted for a reason?

maxink said...

National Insurance is pretty much income tax, isn't it?

Brockley Nick said...

@Danja - we haven't deleted your comment and I haven't seen one appear - are you sure it was published?

Mb said...

Blogger is playing up - hence my double posts regarding celeb tits

maxink said...

Yes Danja's comment was there, followed by one by me that at first appeared twice and now diappear together with Danja's.

Tamsin said...

Gemma represented the conservatives at the Lewisham Pensioners Forum hustings on Tuesday and (along with Heidi Alexander for the Labour Party) came over really well. Both of them probably individuals worth voting for whichever their party banner.

And the poor lass got wrongly issued with a parking ticket at 10.44 when she had paid up to 11.31! Too busy at present to do much about disputing it.

Danja said...

Ah right, blip, OK.

My comment was along the lines of:

The Government promised us that if Boris (through TfL) and Lewisham Council could find £3m of the £10m needed to build the Surrey Canal Road Station, then the Government would fund the remaining £7m. Boris and Lewisham worked hard to fund their side of the deal. The Government has failed to deliver on this promise.

My understanding is that the £3m comes entirely from money TFL had to pay to (Labour) Lewisham anyway, so Tory/Boris/TFL actual contribution is just about nil.

Anonymous said...

If the answer to the question is Tory, then you're asking the wrong question.

love detective said...

"She was going to be my running mate, until Love Detective offered his services"

all that is solid, melts into PR

Anonymous said...

I could never vote tory, for love nor money.

I am increasingly nauseous with every media appearance that David Cameron makes. However "genuine" Gemma Townsend may come across - and at this point, I'd like to state the obivous difference of promising to do something and actually delivering on that promise - a vote for her is ultimately another vote for the out-of-touch, "spoke to a black [once]", swarmy, question dodging, eton-boy Cameron. All offense intended, old boy. To quote the Guardian (beautifully explained)...

"The problem is that his [David Cameron's] revolution has not translated adequately into detailed policies, and remains highly contradictory. He embraces liberal Britain yet protests that Britain is broken because of liberal values. He is eloquent about the overmighty state but proposes to rip up the Human Rights Act which is the surest weapon against it. He talks about a Britain that will play a constructive role in Europe while aligning the Tories in the European parliament with some of the continent's wackier xenophobes. Behind the party leader's own engagement with green issues there stands a significant section of his party that still regards global warming as a liberal conspiracy. The Tories have zigzagged through the financial crisis to an alarming degree, austerity here, spending pledges there. At times they have argued, against all reason, that Britain's economic malaise is down to overblown government, as opposed to the ravages of the market. Though the Conservatives are not uniquely evasive on the deficit, a large inheritance-tax cut for the very wealthy is the reverse of a serious "united and equal" approach to taxation. Small wonder that the Cameronisation of the Conservative party sometimes seems more palace coup than cultural revolution. A Cameron government might not be as destructive to Britain as the worst Tory regimes of the past. But it is not the right course for Britain."

Presumably, in deciding to stand for the conservatives, Gemma Townsend too upholds his (Cameron's) frankly confusing and capricious ideas of change for Britain. Gemma, I aplaud your views on helping small businesses, but Britain is NOT a nation of shopkeepers. Sales and marketting, do NOT improve public services. Therefore, please take your privatising, helping-"Joe-the-plumber" policies elsewhere. America, perchance?

Anyway, it seems about time the green party had a seat in that cobwebbed hall of Westminster - new blood with modern, common sense libertarian values. Manifesto found here: http://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/resources/Manifesto_web_file.pdf

Paddyom said...

I will be voting Tory tomrorrow, despite the fact that Lewisham/Deptford is the reddest Borough in London.

I think if you ignore their toff accents, silly haircuts and 'up-their-own-ar$e' attitudes, their policies are whats needed to save this country from being the next Greece. Policies come before personalities for me.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear, policies over personality! Except surely one is akin to the other? Eg. Hitler's 'policy' of racial hatred and genocide was down to his anti-semitic and violent 'personality'? I like toff-accents too. You can always trust a person with a toff-accent. Does Gemma have a toff-accent? I'd trust her if yes, policy / personality unnecessary. What's wrong with Greece? I'm greek. I for one would love england to become the next greece! Sunny, great food, laid-back attitudes... I'm forced to vote anything BUT conservatives now. :)

Anonymous said...

Hitler was an artist - he would have loved living in Brockley.

name said...

I can't vote Tory, look at the backward attitudes to homosexuality, 'it's ok to bar a gay couple from a public service'- a bed and breakfast. Whatever you think of gays, religion wise, you have to be fair minded and that's just mean spirited. And so anti- Christian; Mary & Mary turn up at the inn but there's no room because they love each other and are in a relationship. How mean.

And this business about exorcising a homosexuality out gay people, by Philippa Stroud conservative ppc and this is a person in charge of conservative social policy. Appalling.

I look at the way Boris has been, since in power. Tories are totally about looking after their own. Which is fine, except 'their own' already have a lot. Inheritance tax estate of up £2 million before tax? Which those that have that kind of money will squirrel away overseas. The country owes 1,000,000, 000,000 (that's trillion) and if the Tories are in, you guess can which sector of society is going to bear brunt of this debt.

undecided said...

Well said name.

Labour have done some brave things and pushed things forward, minimum wage, reduced childhood poverty (admittedly not reaching their target), gay rights, and whether we like it or not saved us from a more severe recession by bailing out the banking industry and the thankless chancers who piss around with investors money.

Although they haven't made it easy this time to vote for em, ID cards, Iraq war, human rights protects the guilty at the expense of the victim, plus fiasco that is immigration which none of the parties will sit down and have a grown up debate without it descending into who's racist.


Might have to flip a coin. Though not tory, they only look after the top 3% of the population.

Monkeyboy said...

Gah! decisions..

With out intending to raise the whole God thing, Clegg couldn't bring himself to say 'I'm an atheiest' but he did say 'I'm not a man of faith' which I think is a small but positive plus for him.

Still not absolutly sure but NOT Tory...

The Cat Man said...

I've decided:

Local mp: lib dem

mayor: green 1st, lib dem second

Councillors: all green

I love green, they plant trees and stuff

Anonymous said...

they do plant trees albeit rather haphazardly and no real thought. Some bunched up closely together others spread far apart, no real design or planning gone into planting up the trees, have a butchers on shardeloes and malpas.

But they're trying at least, very trying

A. Swinger (not free love sort...) said...

Can't decide between green or lib dem... Definitely no to the blue vote! (Sorry Ms. Townsend) But, do I really want to vote lib dem? Can we really trust Nick Clegg? After all, he was a member of the Cambridge conservatives at university. Although, his shift to the left of politics could be conceived either as a 'maturing' of ideology, or that as another public schoolboy brought up to have a career in the political class, his policies are fickle and popularist...? He did also say he'd consider a coalition with those conservatives. I think my alarm bells are ringing! Aargh, it's just so hard to choose!

Tony Lloyd said...

It's probably too near to the election to attempt to change peoples minds. But for those torn between various alternatives to Labour I bring the news that the election for MP is on a knife edge between Labour and the Lib Dems.

The unpopularity of the government together with boundary changes has meant that, remarkable as it sounds, there is a real possibility of your votes making a difference tomorrow. However that will only happen if you vote Lib Dem.

love detective said...

"another public schoolboy brought up to have a career in the political class"

this pretty much sums up clegg - he's not a candidate for change, but continuity - he completely embodies the career path of the new political class, and also it's outlook and complete disconnection from any kind of social base - party names are irrelevant for folk like clegg, just like they were for the professional politicians in new labour, he's beyond ideology, complete scum

name said...

This a tough constituency and we need a high calibre individual and I was at Utrophia hustings and I was surprised to see the manner in which the Lib Dem conducted herself. The Lib Dem candidate had the air of a teenager, (Harry Enfield's Kevin) looking at her hands, mumbling, I don't know what was going on. It was as if they Lib Dems don't care and just picked anyone.

Anonymous said...

the only two candidates that seemed to have anything concrete to say were the greens and labour. Both the Tory and lib dem candidates were too young felt like they were doing a presentation for a school project. Career politicians without any practical life experience does not bode well. Go out into the real world then enter politics and bring your experience to parliament.

Tony Lloyd said...

Hi Love Detective

I'm biased, being a member of the Liberal Democrats in its inception year and previously a member of the Liberal Party. However there is a flaw in your analysis of Nick Clegg as embodying "the career path of the new political class":

If you are just after a "career" in politics you do not seek it in the Liberal Democrats.

Joining the Liberal Democrats is about the most stupid "grab for power" you can make!

Anonymous said...

Clearly he's a masochistic career politician! No, in all sincerity by 'career politician' one means someone who doesn't actually care for politics or power per se, but for heirachial rank within the established system. One could say, for sh*ts and giggles... Or more likely because it's a job that doesn't require working but has all the social respect that comes with the job. A respect that the upper/middle classes find an incredibly potent and addictive narcotic. Ah, the admiring prole who 'knows' his superior.

That in a very convoluted way, is what drives career politicians. Not surprising really, as most of them are bred into such elitist and selective environments. The final touches of arrogance as they depart the Oxbridge conveyor belt of career politicians.

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