Greg Smith is a Councillor in Town Ward, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Cabinet Member for Crime & Anti-social behaviour

The Conservative
victory in Hammersmith & Fulham marked the end to a long era of Labour rule
in the borough, with Conservatives winning an overall majority of Councillors
for the first time since 1968.

Three major
factors contributed to the win. Firstly,
having a clear and radical plan for the borough; secondly a professional, all
year round approach to the way we communicated with residents – both in person
and in print; and lastly a focussed and determined effort to get out the vote.

The clear and
radical agenda for the borough was built up over many years, focussing on a
genuine understanding of residents’ views and concerns – and applying
conservative principles to solving the problems faced. A combination of years of talking to borough
residents on the doorstep and through surveys and reviewing polling data, some
of which the former Labour administration had commissioned, gave a very clear
picture of what residents wanted from their council. They wanted lower council tax bills, which in
Hammersmith & Fulham had reached double those in neighbouring
Wandsworth. They wanted a crack down on
crime and anti-social behaviour and they wanted cleaner streets. Our agenda reflected that in our campaigning
– with pledges of Wandsworth levels of council tax within two terms, zero
tolerance towards crime and anti-social behaviour and plans for a cleaner,
greener borough. All of which are now
firmly at the top of the agenda for delivery in administration.

On the practical
side, faced with a local media that commands a readership of 5,000 at best,
getting the message out was always something that needed to be done ‘in house’. On top of regular, professionally printed
full colour glossy ward newsletters and leaflets, the campaign made extensive
use of direct mail. Not only does this
get over the practical problem of competing with the mountain of take-away and
estate agents leaflets landing on people’s doormats on a daily basis, but
provides a vehicle to talk to targeted groups of residents about what really
matters to them – and in some detail.

Polling conducted
after the general election, where most households had received in the year
run-up at least one leaflet a month, often two, revealed that only 40% of people
remembered having received a leaflet at all! The major conclusion to be taken from this is that communication, in all
forms, must be consistent all year round – to use the popular slogan, “not just
at election times”. It also must be
genuine – talking in terms of what Conservative Action Teams have actually done
for a street, neighbourhood or ward. There is no point just putting out something with the word
‘Conservative’ on it that has no genuine content.

By no means is
this offered as a template to how we won Hammersmith & Fulham – but it does
offer the guiding principles followed at all stages of the campaign. To recap – a bold, radical agenda that meets
residents demands and a professional, all year round approach to communication,
willing to think outside of the box.