Christina Dykes, who worked as the Leadership
Centre’s special adviser on the Conservative Party, is the joint author with Paul Scully, the PPC
for Sutton and Cheam, of Tomorrow’s Councillor: Walking Tall. She says councillors should be treated with greater respect
A disappointed Alexis McEvoy knew who to
blame for the loss of her county council seats last Thursday: it was the Government. The
electors had a message for the Government whose members, she wrote in the Daily Telegraph, were “arrogant,
out of touch and because of them many good councillors have now been lost."
I live in south Hampshire and I can vouch
that Mrs McEvoy is indeed energetic, well known locally and determined. But she lost.
She lost because the political mood was against her as a Conservative. She was associated with problems for which
she is not responsible and about which she can do nothing: that is, she is seen
part of a political class which is out of step with the hopes and fears of many
of its core voters.
Some Conservative councillors would have
lost their seats last Thursday because they deserved it through their own indifference
and ineffectiveness. But what the results show is that Conservative councillors
are seen as political agents of their Party and will be judged as such. What the councillors themselves know, and
what so embittered Mrs McEvoy is that the Party pays little heed to councillors
as politicians, and that the culture within Conservative ranks does not
encourage a coherent effort from pavement to Parliament.
In the report that we publish this morning we warn that tackling this failure is critical to the
future success or failure of the Conservative election outcome.
Too often politics is seen only as battle
of ideas (policy). But important though it
is to have a ruling political philosophy, it is not enough. Any well-run organisation knows success, or
failure, depends on having systems (process), and people (workforce), to
implement the strategies to win the argument (or market). This is what is wrong with modern
politics. Policy making is seen as the
holy grail almost to the exclusion of process and workforce. There is insufficient attention given to
ensuring that there are well-oiled processes to ensure those in charge of
setting the direction know the weather, while the workforce are too often left
in ignorance of where they are going.
This is the bind that Conservative
councillors found themselves in last Thursday.
They are in many ways the workforce of the Party, but they are not treated
Paul Scully and I, with valuable support,
spent months listening to Conservative Councillors. Our conclusions, based on what we heard, are
written up in the report
Download Tomorrow's Councillors, Walking Tall, pub;ished by the Leadership Centre. The bottom line is
that, if councillors are to be the political force that drives through localism,
and if they are to be effective in communicating Party’s policies, they should
be treated as politicians. They deserve
better systems of selection, preparation and support from the Party. Above all, they should treated as key players on the political stage and not just the chorus
Instead of setting up yet another body of
MPs to act as advisers, why doesn’t the Prime Minister encourage Councillor leaders
to sit along side them? Why can’t
leading councillors be sent the Party briefing that is sent to weekly to backbench
MPs and PPCs? How can it be Ministers visit local areas sometimes without the Conservative group Leader
knowing about it? Why don’t the names of
our leading councillors appear on the Conservative Party web-site alongside
those of MPs and PPCs? The Conservative
Party needs to get over its hierarchical instincts and start acting, right now,
as a coherent team so that all members are respected for their role.