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Harrow East candidates clash at public debate
FOUR candidates vying to be the next MP for Harrow East came head to head in a public debate on the issues affecting the borough.
Tory challenger Bob Blackman clashed with Labour's Tony McNulty on health, transport, and the economy in the debate held at the University of Westminster's Northwick Park campus last night.
The two political heavyweights were joined on stage by Lib Dem Nahid Boethe and UKIP candidate Abhijit Pandya, both hoping to make their mark in a contest many believe is a two-horse race.
Discussing transport, Mr Blackman revealed Tory mayor Boris Johnson promised last week to review the issue of disabled access to Stanmore Station following a visit on the campaign trail.
But Mr McNulty hit back, accusing the mayor of letting residents down over the Jubilee Line upgrades and suggesting Mr Johnson will not live up to his promises on Stanmore Station just as he had broken his promises to keep all ticket offices open.
The future of health services in Harrow as been an increasingly important issue in this election, after the Labour announcement that funding had been agreed for the rebuilding of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore.
Mr Blackman argued: “It is not fair to say there is no threat to A&E services at Northwick Park Hospital.
“Northwick Park has to find £50m in this financial year - £20m in urgent health and safety repairs and £30 in so-called efficiency savings under this Labour government.”
But Mr McNulty argued it was a “lie” to say that Northwick Park Hospital was under threat.
He said: “I would tell people to stop telling lies, there is no threat to Northwick Park.”
The issue of MPs expenses, particularly Mr McNulty's second home in Harrow which his parents had been living in, came up during the debate, and Mr Pandya came out fighting on this issue.
He said: “Tony McNulty is saying he hasn't done anything criminal, but isn't it extraordinary that it isn't criminal?
“I hope people throw him out. This man has destroyed public trust and shown what his own inners qualities. It's a disgrace.”
Mr McNulty bullishly defended his position, pointing out he had acted on advice from the Parliamentary fees office that was subsequently declared wrong, and said he had apologised to his constituents and to Parliament in October last year.
The Labour MP, who is fighting to keep the seat he has held for the last 13 years, clashed earlier with Mr Pandya, accusing him of being “the BNP in a suit”.
Mr Pandya, a political unknown before this campaign, argued from the off that British culture should be put first and said “multiculturalism is a bad thing”.
He argued that to be labeled a British Indian would be offensive, but Mr McNulty in particularly slapped down the suggestion that multiculturalism was a “dirty word” and accused UKIP of promoting racist policies.
The fourth candidate, Mrs Boethe, struggled to make her mark on the debate, and on this performance will find it difficult to win the Harrow East constituency.
She found herself under fire towards the end of the debate over the Lib Dem's handling of the Jenny Tonge affair after the peer was not kicked out of the party for her allegedly anti-semitic comments about “organ harvesting” in Haiti.
The debate was hosted by website HA1, www.theha1.co.uk, and the Harrow West candidates are due to face a public grilling on Monday at North Harrow Methodist Church, starting at 8pm.