Having lost his Ministerial post last week, I understand that Conservative MP Bob Neill is bouncing back as Conservative Party Vice Chairman for Local Government. This is a post which has not existed for a while and its restoration is an encouraging sign. Not merely is local government important in itself but having an army of Conservative councillors across the land is crucial to the campaigning strength of the Conservative Party and thus to winning General Elections.
We can't rely on prospective council candidates to push themselves forward. A few do with political ambition – perhaps seeing it as a stepping stone to Parliament. Good for them. Having this ambition does not mean they will be lazy or incompetent councillors. Yet I also know of many dedicated, highly effective councillors who only stood in the first place because they were approached to do so. How many people are there out there who could be fantastic Conservative councillors but, with English reserve, are waiting to be asked to stand?
I don't think we should only look at those who are already Conservative Party members. There will be plenty of local businessmen and resident association activists who have strong Conservative views but have not joined the Conservative Party. Perhaps they tried to but got no reply, or were told the Party "was closed to new members."
They might not have direct political experience, but may have served the community as school governors, by setting up Neighbourhood Watch, or done other voluntary work which will assist them should they be elected as councillors.
However, there is also great potential for more Conservative Party members to put themselves forward as Council candidates. We don't know quite how many Conservative Party members there are. Perhaps it is 177,000. Perhaps it is 130,000. In any event much lower than in the past but still a substantial number. There are 9,000 Conservative councillors in Britain out of around 22,000. So even if only a small minority of members were identified as willing and able to stand as councillors that would allow a great pool of talent to select from.
Yet how many Conservative Party members are actually asked if they would like to be considered as a Council candidate? Has anyone asked you? How much head hunting is undertaken by constituency associations? Sometimes the same people might carry on as councillors or council candidates, without much enthusiasm, on the assumption that "nobody else wants to do it." But that could be because nobody has been asked.
Anyway, I am sure Mr Neill will have some thoughts on this and other matters.