Just over a year ago, the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip didn’t just hold a reasonably healthy 7,210 majority in the Greater London constituency, but commanded a stonking 70-plus seat majority as the sitting Prime Minister.
The downfall of Boris Johnson is of course one of the most remarkable recent tales in British history, with Labour now looking to capitalise on his fall from grace and add salt into an already sizable political wound.
Were they to take the seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip when voters go to the polls at the by-election this Thursday, it wouldn’t just deal another blow to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s mounting issues, but the optics would signal a final nail in the coffin of Johnson’s reign – and indicate that Labour are well and truly on the ascendancy.
The man chosen to lead this charge for Keir Starmer and the Labour Party is Danny Beales, a Camden Borough councillor whose political drive was fashioned out of the struggles he experienced growing up, having twice been made homeless as a teenager.
In the run-up to the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election this week, we breakdown Beales’ political history and stances on issues affecting voters.
What was Danny Beales’ upbringing like?
Born in 1988 at Hillingdon Hospital, Beales grew up in the constituency he’s now standing for, attending Deanesfield Primary School in South Ruislip and Abbotsfield Secondary in Hillingdon.
The only child of parents who divorced when he was a toddler, his father was largely absent, leaving his mother as a single parent.
Beales’ education and home life was uprooted when he was 15 after his mother lost her job and they had no choice but to move to Northampton to stay with grandparents.
The pair would subsequently live in the area in shared rental accommodation until Beales’ mother lost her job again, which meant they were put up in a bread and breakfast by the council.
Whilst this turbulent upbringing had an inevitable impact, Beales was able to continue his education and carry out his A-levels, helped in part by the £30-a-week he received from the education maintenance allowance (EMA), a support scheme to help keep those aged between 16 and 19 in school, which was axed by the 2010 coalition government.
Whilst this in turn helped Beales become the first in his family to go to university – going on to study politics and social policy at the London School of Economics (LSE) – the real education Beales had received came in observing the strife and everyday challenges of poverty around him.
By this stage in his late teens, Beales had joined the Labour Party, seeing politics as a means to make a difference.
What has Beales done outside of politics?
After working a number of jobs to fund a master’s degree in social policy, Beales later moved to London and sought to take immediate strides in the world of politics, as a parliamentary researcher and campaigns organiser.
Outside of his direct work with the Labour Party, Beales has been heavily involved in the world of health, working in policy for such organisations as the Children’s Heart Foundation, neonatal charity Bliss and Diabetes UK.
More recently, until April of this year Beales was the head of policy and campaigns for the National AIDs Trust, which is the HIV charity that took the NHS to court, and won, in the case to make PrEP available on the NHS.
What has Danny Beales’ political career entailed?
Despite his handful of jobs in health, Beales’ aspirations in the broader political world were still going strong alongside.
In May 2014, he was elected as a Labour councillor for the Cantelowes Ward in Camden, securing the highest number of votes in that ward.
By 2017, he was made a cabinet member and has since spent a lot of time working on the area’s council house building programme – a matter inevitably close to his heart.
What are his key policies?
Beales’ main priorities are three-fold.
First, he’s pledging to help people struggling amid the cost-of-living crisis.
With real wages having fallen in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip area by a reported 3.2% on average, at the same time mortgage payments have risen sharply, Beales is seeing a fast-track on renewable energy as the solution, by bringing down energy costs.
More locally, Beales has been a part of the campaign to prevent Uxbridge police station from closing down.
This came after an intervention from Sadiq Khan, who wrote to the Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to U-turn on the planned closure.
Conservatives have since accused the London Mayor of playing political games, with former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers describing the move as “cynical political game-playing and interference in a by-election”.
Third, Beales has pledged “a new, state of the art hospital” for the Hillingdon area, citing the Conservatives’ “broken promises” on the matter and the reality of Boris Johnson’s scrutinised pledge he made as Prime Minister to build 40 new hospitals across the country.
What are Danny Beales’ views on ULEZ?
Given the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency will fall under the expanded Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) when it’s extended to outer London on 29 August, this has been the most contentious issue of Beales’ campaign.
Hillingdon Council is among those openly defying ULEZ and are part of a coalition of councils taking the issue to court.
To some extent, Beales has been muddled on this issue, accused of the same “flip-flopping” the wider Labour Party under Keir Starmer has been charged with.
Initially, Beales came out in support of the expansion of ULEZ, saying “we all need cleaner air”, but has since rowed back.
His current position is that it is “not the right time” to introduce the measure, with the extra £12.50-a-day charge likely to hurt families’ pockets, which are already being squeezed amid the cost-of-living crisis.
Beales has previously described hearing “heart-wrenching stories” from motorists who would struggle to afford the new charges.
The political calculation on the matter is simple: would Labour rather be seen to be divided on the issue of Khan’s ULEZ expansion plans, but stand a better chance of taking Johnson’s old seat?
For now at least, they clearly feel so.
Does he stand any chance of winning?
In short, he absolutely does. In fact, most odds put him in pole position by some distance, with political forecasting site Electoral Calculus giving him a remarkable 86% chance of winning at present.
It’s not quite a foregone conclusion however, given the 7,210 majority and the constituency’s voting history.
In fact, since it was created in 2010, the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency has always voted Conservative.
What’s more, its previous seat Uxbridge last voted Labour in 1966, so nothing is guaranteed for Beales, despite the current odds.
That said, Labour are certainly putting everything they have into this particular by-election.
Among the three by-elections taking place this Thursday – which also includes the seat of Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire, and the Somerset seat of Somerton and Frome – the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election is one they’ve especially targeted.
Not only does it have the smallest Tory majority among the three, but it would of course send a symbolic political message were they to take the former seat of Boris Johnson.
What has Beales said of Boris Johnson?
Given this week’s by-election was of course triggered by the downfall of Boris Johnson, following a list of scandals that notably included ‘Partygate’, the attacks on the former PM have inevitably been seen as an election winner.
Beales has previously remarked in jest about the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip deserving “a full-time MP”, rather than someone who merely makes an “annual trip to the constituency”.
But in a number of interviews, Beales has also been relatively coy about using Johnson as the go-to political football, arguing instead that he’s running simply for the best interests of the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip.
There’s an age-old wisdom in politics that opposition parties don’t win elections, governments lose them.
Following the scandal-ridden Johnson tenure and current struggles facing Sunak, perhaps Beales is already confident of the political points earned by the tainted Boris Johnson brand.
We will find out quite whether voters agree in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency following the by-election this Thursday, 20 July.
Featured Image credit: Danny Beales / Labour Party