Phil Taylor is a Conservative activist and former councillor in Ealing
In Ealing we were disappointed to go so far backwards at the recent local elections. We lost 12 seats. In neighbouring Hounslow the Conservatives lost 14 seats and Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF)
Conservatives lost 11 seats so there was a West London thing going on
which I will come back to.
In 2006 we thought we were hot stuff winning the council on the back of very unpopular plans for a tram running down the Uxbridge Road and a 12 year Labour administration that had plumbed new depths of waste and incompetence leaving Ealing the dirtiest borough in London. Many people were surprised to see us lose control of the council in 2010 in spite of having a reputation for doing a good job and cleaning up the borough under Jason Stacey. We were left with 24 seats spread across 11 wards.
This year we lost half our councillors. We were perhaps guilty of trying to defend too large a territory in the face of a buoyant Labour Party locally that fights a very focussed all arms battle across the borough – and uses their two local MPs and their London Assembly Member effectively. They had a paid organiser for 2010 and they have another one now – Joseph Brown of “I shot down that Zionist” fame.
Across the wards we fought we got 86 per cent of our 2006 vote which is not bad when you consider the negative effect of having your party in power and people kicking against it. But that said we matched our 2006 vote in three seats where we were wiped out.
Meanwhile in these same wards Labour got 92 per cent of the vote that they got in 2010 when turnout was boosted by the coincidence of the general election. It was a great performance that swept away half of our councillors. In the four wards where Labour was particularly well organised they exceeded their 2010 vote and took eight of our seats. But they got 76 per cent of their 2010 vote in wards where we know they did absolutely nothing except put up candidates. No leaflets. Nothing. It wasn’t just organisation driving their vote. Their voters were motivated.
The Lib Dem vote held up very well in wards where they were defending councillors. They were very focussed on those three wards leaving undefended LibDem votes to break left and contribute to us losing five councillors in two wards.
Whilst Labour’s organisation stood it in good stead they themselves claimed their victory was down to the hospitals campaign – protesting plans by the NHS to downgrade two local hospitals and close four A&Es. Certainly the similar outcome in Hounslow and LBHF backs up this idea. This was a campaign that local Conservatives enthusiastically participated in in large numbers until the point when the formal judicial review and Independent Reconfiguration Panel processes were exhausted and the Secretary of State made his announcement to keep two of the four A&Es.
Labour has been banging the NHS cuts drum for four years now and many would put Onkar Sahota’s defeat of Richard Barnes in the 2012 Ealing and Hillingdon GLA contest down to this effect. Labour’s knock up leaflets on 22nd May said: “Don’t let the Tories get away with closing your local hospitals”.
We have been unable to make the case that this programme is merely the local roll out of Labour’s own £20 billion Nicholson Challenge programme which was initiated in 2009 and included on page 4:3 of the 2010 Labour manifesto. The only relief we have had from the proposals locally is from Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, who has reprieved A&Es at Charing Cross and Ealing. We have had no promise from Labour – only a blunt and dishonest refusal to admit the genesis of this scheme. No doubt Labour will keep on this subject over the next year.