Labour will make sure people have a real say, vows Tonbridge candidate
by Andy Tong | 18th April 2019
THE Chair of the Tonbridge & Malling Constituency Labour Party, Mary Arigho, is standing in Tonbridge’s Castle ward in the local elections on May 2.
The former journalist, charity worker and mother of two, 63, will attempt to disrupt a Conservative stronghold that has been presided over by former Mayor Owen Baldock – he is standing down after 35 years in the ward.
In the last election in 2015, Ms Arigho stood in the ward of Trench, against the incumbent Mayor Pam Bates, and won 12 per cent of the vote - equal with Ukip.
What do you think are the major issues facing Tonbridge?
The Conservatives have dominated the council for far too long and it has made them complacent and unresponsive to local concerns in Tonbridge and Malling.
Under the Conservatives, we have seen our quality of life gradually eroded here in the town. People are appalled that well-loved assets that help to make up the character of the town, instead of being developed, are being sold off at knock-down prices, with little consultation. It is ludicrous that residents are forced to sit in a tree at River Lawn to prevent it from being uprooted.
We should not be seeing people sleeping in shop doorways in Tonbridge or families waiting for years to get a home. And the council has not paid enough attention to environmental factors like air pollution.
Why do you think Labour has had such a poor record in the town and borough in recent years?
Labour has seen its local membership triple in the last few years and there is a growing engagement with us on Facebook, so we are confident that there is plenty of support.
'Only eight ‘affordable’ family homes of three or more bedrooms were built in two years to 2018'
We would put pressure on the council to build more social housing. The Bridge Trust homeless charity has described social housing provision in the borough as ‘woefully inadequate’. Only eight ‘affordable’ family homes of three or more bedrooms were built in two years to 2018. But ‘affordable’ is way out of reach for most people at 80 per cent of the market rate.
An area of concern is air pollution on the High Street. This is at a dangerous level and, disappointing for a scenic part of Kent, there is poor provision for cyclists. We would redress this, monitor pollution levels at schools and also aim to close the High Street at weekends for markets and cultural events. We are determined to give a boost to small businesses and tourism.
Labour would make sure that residents were properly informed and had a real say over new developments.
You ran for Trench ward four years ago, why have you decided to have a crack at Castle?
Julian Wilson and I are standing for Labour in Castle ward, the first time we have fielded candidates there for a few years. We have been aware of firm support in Castle for a while now and have had a great welcome when we have talked to residents. There is a good sense of community there, particularly in the Slade area, which taps into many things that Labour stands for.
What are you going to say when you are asked why Labour hasn’t taken the Tories to task over their Brexit squabbles?
The implosion of the Tory government over Brexit has been an eye-opener for many people. On the other hand, Labour has steered a steady course over a political minefield. In the end, Theresa May was forced to face down her own Cabinet, take no-deal off the table and engage in talks with Labour.
'We are adamant that racism, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia, must be stamped out of national politics'
People are disaffected, particularly with the Conservatives for prolonged austerity and their mishandling of Brexit.
How will you explain Labour’s recent problems with accusations of anti-semitism?
As a party we are adamant that racism, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia, must be stamped out of national politics. This should not impact locally and we urge people to use their vote in this election.