Last Thursday, Greenwich Conservatives gained a council seat from Labour in the borough for the first time in ten and a half years. Our result in the Eltham North by-election has been a much-needed tonic after a difficult few years of elections for the Conservatives right across London.
The even better news is that the nature of this victory – the first London Conservative by-election gain from Labour since 2008 – should give us hope for further successes across the capital in 2018.
Our candidate, Charlie Davis, ran a hugely energetic campaign for the seat in Eltham North ward – increasing our share of the vote by ten per cent and edging out the Labour candidate by 38 votes at a tense count at Woolwich Town Hall. At 22, Cllr Davis becomes the youngest sitting councillor in the Royal Borough, and one of the youngest candidates ever elected in Greenwich.
Charlie’s victory also follows the success of our friends in Bexley, who won St Michael’s Ward back in the summer. Both results contain reasons for optimism. UKIP support has plunged from its 2014 high water mark and both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are winning over moderate Labour voters who are quite simply appalled by Jeremy Corbyn.
In Greenwich, our by-election campaign itself was instructive. We had all the ingredients of any successful election – a superb local candidate, a strong track record of action thanks to the ward’s tireless sitting councillor, Spencer Drury, and a brilliant campaign organised by our agent Roger Tester.
Most importantly, we led with a positive, optimistic message for the voters of what Charlie and the Conservatives could achieve for the ward – and the voters responded accordingly.
It was a campaign based on great teamwork, with more than 50 activists from right across Greenwich joined by our friends from Bexley, Bromley, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Southwark. Many made multiple visits, often to return previous cross-border support in their own contests. Syed Kamall MEP and Gareth Bacon AM both made high-profile visits, and the support we received from Lizzie Lumley’s team at CCHQ proved invaluable.
By contrast, our main opponents were the deeply divided local Labour Party. On the evening of polling day itself, instead of knocking on doors in Eltham North, more than 30 members of the Greenwich branch of Momentum were instead indoors holding a meeting to discuss deselections. You could not make it up.
Our task is now to ensure that Charlie’s victory marks the turn of the tide in a borough that desperately needs more Conservative councillors at the Town Hall – to oppose a divided ruling Labour Party that has taken residents’ votes for granted for far too long.
In Greenwich, our campaign for the next local elections began immediately after the General Election last summer, when we established Team Greenwich 2018 – our joint campaign team bringing together the Council Group and the association to win seats in 2018. We selected our first 12 candidates back in the summer – and campaigning is well under way.
As London Conservatives we now have just 18 months left to make these by-election victories the turn of the tide, not just in Greenwich and Bexley, but in boroughs across our great city. After last Thursday, we should all take to this task with a spring in our step.