Video: Colum Eastwood interview - I have no love for Westminster but Derry needs a voice other than Gregory Campbell’s
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has ‘no love for Westminster’ but insists a Derry accent other than Gregory Campbell’s needs to be heard when decisions are being made in London.
Mr. Eastwood was in bullish mood while launching his campaign to regain the seat from Sinn Féin’s Elisha McCallion who defeated the former SDLP MP Mark Durkan by just 169 votes in the last General Election in 2017.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ at the launch of the SDLP election campaign on the Derry Walls on Wednesday, he said: “We want to win the seat. This is a seat that has been empty now for a couple of years and the voice of the people of Derry has not been heard in Westminster.
“It is not being heard where it counts. I have no love for the Westminster Parliament, it is chaotic, but they are making the decisions, they are in charge, and nobody makes any change without turning up,” he said.
Mr. Eastwood, who was selected to stand in the Foyle constituency on Tuesday evening, said the party will be fighting this election on a strong pro-Remain platform.
However, he is also asking the electors of Derry to give him a mandate on December 12 so that he can represent their views on social and economic matters in the British House of Commons in the next parliament.
“We want to be there. We want to represent all of the people of this city, particularly when Brexit hasn’t happened yet.
“We can still stop Brexit and we will vote to stop Brexit. We’ll vote against the Tory government. We will never support the handing of welfare powers to a Tory government that will marginalise further the most impoverished people, people in this city.
“We will never support a Tory government that will privatise the NHS and, of course, the DUP do support them and Sinn Féin have handed them welfare powers and won’t go to do anything to stop them.
“That is our clear pitch. We will be there. We will stand up for people in this city and we will fight for people in this city and more importantly we will vote for them.”
Mr. Eastwood said Brexit represented “a national emergency” and that it was a time for “leaders to lead and to step up”.
“That’s why we believe it is very, very important in this constituency and others that we send MPs who will go and speak for people in Derry.
“Gregory Campbell’s is the only Derry accent that is heard in the Westminster chamber. I think that’s a disgrace and we want to do something about that. If people show up for us on election day, we’ll show up for them at Westminster.”
The SDLP leader insisted that the sitting MP Elisha McCallion was the clear favourite to retain the seat for Sinn Féin in little over a month’s time.
But he was sanguine about the Alliance Party insurgence in recent elections and warned against writing the SDLP off. Is it a do or die election for the party?
“We’re told that every election and we’re still here. I think it is a mistake to write off this party, particularly in this city where we did so well in the Council elections.
“We’re hoping to do well in this election. We know we are the underdogs. We know we are in a very, very tight fight and every single vote will count but this is going to be a two-horse race.
“People have to think very carefully about their vote if they want someone to stand up for them. If they are fed up with an empty seat then they have to come out and vote for us and in this election lend us their support.”