Candidates from the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party sparred over disability policy at a hustings in Hammersmith.
Organised by Action on Disability in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Mencap, the event focused on deaf and disability issues at Bishop Creighton House in Hammersmith on Friday.
Each candidate briefly outlined their platform before taking questions from the audience.
Jack Bovill, UKIP’s representative, drew gasps and groans from the audience when he said he first encountered disabilities when meeting ‘a mongoloid child’.
The Green Party’s Alex Horn repeatedly highlighted the selection by of Ben Fletcher as the party’s candidate for Putney, making him the first-ever deaf-blind candidate in a British parliamentary election.
The future of Charing Cross Hospital under the NW London Sustainability and Transformation Plan, which is to be achieved by April 2021, was a big topic.
Charlie Dewhirst, the Conservative candidate, quoted the hospital’s chief executive, who said there were no plans to close the hospital within the lifetime of the plan.
He said: “Let’s stop playing politics with the local health services and let’s sit down and get the best deal for local residents.”
The other candidates disputed this, with Labour’s candidate Andy Slaughter, who is seeking re-election, accusing him of ‘half truths’ and challenging him to guarantee the hospital’s future indefinitely.
The Lib Dems’ Joyce Wangui Onstad and Mr Horn, who works the hospital, both said there were plans to sell off hospital land.
On the issue of hate crime against people with disabilities, candidates views varied between Mr Bovill’s preference of the model applied to combat anti-LGBT hate crime to Ms Onstad’s assertion that any sort of hate crime should not be tolerated.
Questioned on cuts to welfare, Ms Onstad argued that the Lib Dems had restrained the Conservatives’ cuts do disability benefit during the coalition, while Mr Slaughter highlighted Labour’s plans to reverse cuts to disability benefits and the Personal Independence Payment.
Mr Dewhirst focused on the Conservative policy of encouraging people with disabilities into work, and Mr Horn said the Greens have a range of pledges to support disabled people.