Page last updated at 09:57 GMT, Saturday, 17 April 2010 10:57 UK

Expenses issue shadow looms over Harrow East MP seat

Debabani Majumdar
BBC News, London

From left: Tony McNulty, Nahid Boethe, Bob Blackman
Conservatives and Lib Dems are attacking Labour Labour over expenses

The expenses scandal could be one of the central issues for candidates in the Harrow East seat defended by Labour's Tony McNulty.

Mr McNulty has held the seat since 1997 and said people will vote on his record and not on his expense claims.

Conservative Bob Blackman will focus on saving A&E at Northwick Park Hospital but will not forget the expenses issue.

The lack of school spaces and high exclusion rates will be the priority for Liberal Democrat Nahid Boethe.

Since 1997 the constituency has belonged to Labour, but the Tories need a 3.4% swing in their favour to turn the seat blue.

A boundary change could also affect the result as Greenhill and Marlborough wards, with its 14,000 voters, has gone to Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner constituency.

The expenses issue came to the fore after Mr McNulty stepped down from the post of the Home Office and Employment Minister after being ordered to repay £13,837 of expenses claimed on his parents' home in Hammersmith, which was designated as his second home.

'Very very angry'

Mr Blackman said health will be his "principal issue".

He said: "Labour are going to close five out of eight accident and emergency units in north-west London.

"Northwick Park is under direct threat. They have been told they have to find £30m cuts out of their budget of £300m, it's going to mean job cuts and services reduced and what we are saying is stop.

"The failure of the incumbent MP to adequately account for his expenses is a big issue among most local people."

Lib Dems Ms Boethe said local people have been "very, very angry with politicians" over the expenses scandal and added that education will get her most attention.

Northwick Park Hospital
The A&E at the hospital is under threat

"At nearly every door they ask us: 'Are you going to be filling your pockets'.

"I want to make Harrow more open and give power to the people to have a say in which schools their kids should go to."

Labour candidate Tony McNulty's campaign received a boost after the government gave the go-ahead last month for an £81m redevelopment of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, for which he said he had been trying for years.

He said: "The picture on the doorstep is very very mixed, it's as much local as it is national.

"I need to stand on my overall record, I need to explain to people in the strongest terms of what prevailed in terms of expenses, but alongside a whole range of other issues in terms of what I have done for the constituency and I would aspire to do.

"Labour will continue to transform the delivery of public services for the people of Harrow East, whether that's schools, hospitals, the local GP services."

Candidates declared so far Harrow East: Conservative: Bob Blackman, Labour: Tony McNulty, Lib Dem: Nahid Boethe, Green: Sarah Kersey and UKIP: Abhijit Pandya.



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