‘Bromley is the worst place in London to be disabled’: Labour candidate hopeful pledges to address transport issues

A Labour candidate hopeful for one of South London’s newest constituencies has pledged to address poor transport links and accessibility for disabled people within 100 days if elected.

Liam Conlon, who lives in Crystal Palace, is standing to become the Labour Party’s candidate for the Beckenham and Penge seat, a new constituency formed following a Boundary Commission review.

Mr Conlon – who is currently vice chair of Lewisham West and Penge Labour Party – was disabled following an accident when he was a teenager, which saw him unable to walk for four years.

He needed extensive surgery at the Royal London Hospital and then the National Orthopaedic Hospital which set him back a year at school. He has since had a hip replacement and is able to walk.

“I understand from first-hand experience the many challenges disabled people face every day, so often invisible to other people,” Mr Conlon said.

“Disability is an important issue across London and Britain – but with a Tory Government and a Tory council in Bromley, it’s particularly acute for people here. Bromley has the biggest disability employment gap of any London Borough.

“There is up to a two year wait for SEND assessment appointments for children in Bromley today, and there is a shortage of SEND support and teaching assistants

“We have some of the worst transport accessibility links in London. I know from using a wheelchair as a teenager the indignity of not being able to access public transport, and how it limits disabled people’s opportunities to find work, and it is a key driver of social exclusion for disabled people

“It’s why if I am elected, I am promising to set-up the first ever All Party Parliamentary Group on Transport Accessibility within 100 days of becoming an MP – and I want that change to start in South London.”

Mr Conlon currently works for Discovery Education, which provides school children with the ability to learn computer coding courses. He also volunteers with Crystal Palace FC’s Palace for Life Foundation which aims to improve the lives of young South Londoners.

If elected Mr Conlon said he will lobby for more funding for youth centres and the NHS, which he described as being in “a real crisis”.

“I owe the NHS everything,” he said. “I know the power of it. I’ve spent years in NHS hospitals and I wouldn’t be here without them.”

The leader of the Labour Party, Sir Keir Starmer, has recently been criticised for his comments in a radio interview about the Israel and Hamas conflict. He appeared to agree with Israel’s plans to cut off electricity, water and food to Gaza, which amount to war crimes.

Labour councillors across the country have threatened to resign as a result.

Mr Starmer has since attempted to clarify those comments and said he disagrees with those methods.

Mr Conlon said “language matters” when it comes to sensitive issues like the conflict in the Middle East but was not convinced Labour would lose votes as a result of the leader’s comments, at least in the new constituency.

As a relative of a victim of the Ballymurphy massacre – one of the worst atrocities in the Northern Ireland Troubles where 10 people, including a priest, were shot dead by British soldiers – Mr Conlon said he has campaigned for justice for victims of the Troubles as the National Chair of the Labour Party Irish Society.

“What the Good Friday Agreement teaches us is that language matters and we need to be really careful and have empathy, with a victim centred focus. Ultimately we need dialogue and a peace process [in Israel and Gaza]. Labour is the party of the Good Friday Agreement.”

The new constituency will take on seven council wards from the Lewisham West and Penge and Beckenham seats.

It is likely to be a key marginal seat at the next General Election. In the 2019 General Election, the Tories would have had a notional majority of circa 1,000 – 2,000. 

The Conservative Party has selected Bob Stewart MP as their candidate for the new seat. None of the other major political parties have announced a candidate.

Pictured top: Liam Conlon outside the Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell is hoping to become Labour’s candidate for the new Beckenham and Penge seat (Picture: Liam Conlon)

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